Q955 Summary

Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.

(Editorial Note: This 90-minute tape is a segment of Q1021, and is contained in its entirety there. It begins about one hour into that three-hour tape, and ends with about 30 minutes remaining. The discussion below covers only Q 955; it has been edited and its main points reiterated in the summary for Q 1021.)

To read the Tape Transcript, click here. Listen to MP3 (Pt. 1, Pt. 2).
To return to the Tape Index, click here.

FBI Catalogue: Jones speaking

FBI preliminary tape identification note Labeled in part “Aug 72”

Date cues on tape: Context of tape – Redwood Valley sermon before defection of Jim Cobb, which occurred in 1973 – consistent with date on tape note

People named:

People in attendance at Peoples Temple service
Christine (last name unknown)
Harold (last name unknown)
Joy (last name unknown)
Karen (last name unknown)
Laura (last name unknown)
Peter (last name unknown)
Purity (last name unknown)
Rheaviana Beam
Simon (last name unknown)
Valerie (last name unknown)
Jack (probably Beam)
Jim Bogue (speaks)
Jim Cobb
Liz Forman
Archie Ijames (speaks)
Marceline Jones (speaks)
Esther Mueller
Professor Edith Roller
Grace Stoen
Tim Stoen
Dr. van Dusen (L.A. psychologist who praised PT)
Dr. Perkins (L.A. doctor who praised PT)

Public figures/National and international names:
Father Divine

Bible verses cited: None


Less than a religious sermon or political rally than many gatherings of Peoples Temple, this session is more of a conversation – largely in conversational tones – about what Jim Jones expects out of his followers, out of the church leaders and out of himself. Along the way, he speaks a great deal about his perceptions of sex. He also speaks of the need for total, brutal honesty, but then – in the course of talking about sex – contradicts himself in his statements of fidelity to his wife.

On several occasions, this tape has fades, especially in the opening minutes and towards the end. Some fades seem to be just that – a bad spot in the tape – since the cadence of speech and context seem to flow. At other points, there seem to be edits, some of a few seconds, one of an unknown duration.

The tape begins with Jones talking about what he needs from his followers. “I said, the one that loves me most [and] loves the principle that I am will be the one that swallows their carnal pride and goes furthest for peace.” A moment later, he summarizes his role: “I’ve been trying to bring you to love, to understanding, to feeling, to knowing yourself.” He reiterates both of these themes throughout.

In a demonstration of his own efforts to bring everyone to complete honesty, he asks that all security be withdrawn, that “every gun [be] laid down” that night, to demonstrate his trust in his followers and the reciprocity of his requests of loyalty. His wife Marceline protests, asking why he risks his life, when they won’t even offer him respect. “I’m for you pulling out,” she says, “if these people cannot be loyal.”

In his quest for honesty, Jones promises that “I’m gonna tell you everything I think. And boy, that’s gonna be rough. That’s gonna be rough. I’m gonna tell you just exactly like I see it.” Speaking to the same point later in the session, Jones asks people not to hold bad feelings against those who open up and show their honesty. A half hour later, he returns to the theme, and asks people to temper their honesty with love. “So let’s try honesty, but let’s most clearly make this known. And that doesn’t mean just cut cut cut. You say what you feel, but also show the cordiality with it, or let the person know you care.” Still, he later admits, his own forthrightness has caused the church to lose members who couldn’t stand to hear such honesty.

When an unknown woman – near tears – says she’s sorry for setting a poor example, Jones says he is tired of confessions, and wants deeds and actions instead. He criticizes the entire leadership for setting bad examples. His criticism is both general and specific, although he does acknowledge he is picking on one person as an illustration. “The chain isn’t any stronger than its weakest link, not a bit stronger,” he says, “and we got more than one weak link.”

Later in the session, Jones voices one criticism in particular. People on the council who want to leave at midnight or one a.m. feel as though they can just do it. “You are not so privileged,” he says. “If you’re on that council, you are to stay all night long. You leave when everybody else leaves.”

The example of Father Divine – a black minister in Philadelphia whose leadership of a large movement once had Jones’ admiration – arises several times as illustrating what Peoples Temple should not do. People should not try to cover up the weaknesses of those organizations as Father Divine’s group does (and as contrasted to the Temple’s openness and lack of anything to hide). When one woman talks about Father Divine taking her to bed with him, Jones admonishes her gently: “Valerie, Valerie, Valerie? Listen. I think you’re wonderful. I like you, but that point … [w]hen he put you in the bed… you should have at that moment said well, that’s not the kind of God I want.” A moment later, in a broader context, Jones says, “I don’t understand how God would be privileged to do things that his people are not privileged to do.”

On the issue of sex, Jones preaches abstinence. “I want to say, stop sex.” It is selfish, it is diverting, it is confusing. He applies the standard to himself, he says. He has a tremendous sex drive, then continues: “But I’ve never used that drive for myself, is what I’m trying to say to you. Never have… Proof of it is you marry and go into marriage without any sexual relationship, never having had one, you go into marriage, keep yourself true to one woman… That’s a record for itself. Ten years, twelve years? Thirteen years. Thirteen years, no break in the vow. Thirteen years. No interruption. Only then when babies were starving to death did we have to interrupt it. By mutual consent.”

He returned to the theme several times, the first as an illustration that even Mother – Marceline – is not above criticism. He talks about having her up before the congregation to chastise her for her dependency upon him as a sexual being.

Jones complains about the lack of respect people show him. They think his willingness to do the dirty work – to help a woman wash her cupboards – should be an excuse to diminish him. “[S]ome of you don’t give me the respect that you gave former pastors” who weren’t willing to do that work. But when you disrespect Jones, you disrespect not a person, but as an office. The result: The office is “gonna be cut down at the wrong time, and somebody’s blood is gonna be on your hands. ‘Cause if I’m doing the best I can, if you’re not respectful for me, and someone else looks at you, and uses you as an excuse, you are going to have to pay for them.” Late in the session, an unidentified woman contrasts the respect shown to Father Divine and that shown to Jones: “I’m saying, the respect that I saw there for nothing, we’re not getting for everything. And I think we had a lot to learn about the respect that went on back there, that we haven’t got here.”

In the midst of this session, Jones makes an isolated and non-contextual reference to death, the only one of the evening. It is a theme he spoke of in many other circumstances, but it rings oddly here. “I face things like having to have the cyanide in the right place… I don’t know how to use my own energy to destruct myself. I’m a healer. I wouldn’t know how to kill myself. Wouldn’t know how to use my energy to do that. But … if you drain me dry before I’d let my body be incapacitated here, I would destruct myself.”

Returning to the issue of respect and loyalty, he says – to one person or the congregation at large, it’s unclear – “your basic reason for lying to me, is that you don’t trust me.” Marceline follows his remark with an observation: “Sometimes I think, believing that someone is as honest as he is requires too much out of us. And so we have to project and see in him what’s in us.” His life would be easier is he did allow himself to be put on a pedestal instead of a stool cleaning cupboards, she continues, because then maybe they would respect him. “But he’s too honest to do that.”

Jones plays on that point, saying that those projections of their weaknesses onto him gives them an out. “You want to make a God in your image. You don’t want to be made in the image of your God. You’re trying to make a God in your own image.” And that’s the mindset, he says, that allowed King James to write the Bible as he did, to project himself onto God. That’s why the Bible is about a God of jealously and slavery and hatred, rather than a God of Principle. He concludes the point by challenging his followers to make the commitment he has.

He acknowledges the love and affection people have for him, but says that others are jealous when he shows physical affection himself. But they misunderstand him when he does that, and he tells them not to get him on a “sex plane” with all the selfishness that brings. “[I]t’s a much higher level that I feel for you, than sex. Much higher.”

He notes that a young woman recently offered herself to him – and adds that he averages such a proposal once a weekend – and while he could do it, while he could have any young woman in the congregation, “I want to wake up with somebody that’s wiser, more experienced, more mature… I want some communion with mind, I want some fellowship with somebody’s got some love and understanding… that are concerned about the problems around them.”

He speaks fondly of the seniors in the church, and says if he quit his job – which he never would – he would surround himself with children and seniors and animals, and get away as far as he could. He returns to the subject almost wistfully: “if you won’t give me any peace here, I’ll take the little ones here that will, older and younger and in between, and we’ll go someplace, and we’ll put us a high electric fence around us as possible and whatever else we need to deter anybody from coming in on us.”

Jones describes the Temple’s movement as being small still, but says it will last, if it sticks to principle. “We may look like a mess, but we can be a mass, if we’ll build on right,” he says, by which he means if people get to know him and what he’s doing and follow that leadership. In speaking of the growing movement later in the session, he says that people who get to be more like him could be sent elsewhere to do his work. “I beg you, I beg you to come into this school that I’m teaching. I’m the Godship degree, or the socialist-ship degree.”

Returning to the issue of sex, he says he wishes he could go to bed with everyone in the church, not for sex, but to talk with each one, to show them things about themselves that they don’t know.

There are no testimonials in the session, but there are confessions. One man confesses his homosexuality, and apologizes to the women he used to try to pretend to be otherwise. He wants everyone to know, he says, so that he won’t backslide. The congregation applauds his confession, and Jones says that his newly-demonstrated maturity earned him a position on security, and he can have a gun. Jones also comments that “anybody can digress… be diverted by … one little area of unreconciled behavior problem [that] can get you off course. [Homosexuality] doesn’t blot out your character points and strength in other areas, but it certainly can divert your energy.”

Following another confession, Jones tells a long story about the man’s character, but it’s a story about loyalty, the strength found in standing together – as well as the use of political influence and the power of letter-writing. Another lesson, he concludes, is to follow instructions.

The result of the evening’s session, as Jones sees it, is a more united church. “[W]e may look like we’re divided at the beginning of a night, and we may seem to be tottering, but the old ship of state right now… is in damn good shape.”

Still, he warns about people coming in to a church meeting who would do them harm, people who would judge Temple members because of their “ardor” and “overwhelming zeal.” If a stranger comes to the church to attend, greeters are to find out who they are, what their reasons for coming are, and then send them away with a promise that they can come at another time. If it is a Ukiahan – a resident of the town – tell them that this is a confessional meeting tonight, or a catharsis session, and people feel uneasy with strangers around. Or, tell them that it’s a business meeting, and not a time for worship. For other outsiders, especially those who are “intellectuals,” find out their area of expertise, and tell them of the people in their field who support the Temple. “[I]f they know other psychologists and psychiatrists have praised us, and other doctors have praised us, then they don’t want to look like they’re a fool, you see.” Then send them away with a promise that they can attend a future session. Jones tells them not to mention the names of their supporters in the field, so they won’t get in trouble; he also says he can’t put this policy in writing, but thatthey should circulate it by telephone.

What is the purpose of this policy? If strangers come in and hear them talking about socialism, they could be in trouble.

He concludes with one comment on the news: according to a survey, the American people revealed that they trusted preachers second among professions, right after doctors. He says that’s wrong, that preachers should be trusted last, as evidenced by the example of Father Divine. He adds that he himself is not a preacher, that he doesn’t fit that role.

FBI Summary:

Date of transcription: 7/6/79

In connection with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation into the assassination of U.S. Congressman LEO J. RYAN at Port Kaituma, Guyana, South America, on November 18, 1978, a tape recording was obtained. This tape recording was located in Jonestown, Guyana, South America, and was turned over to U.S. Officials in Guyana and subsequently transported to the United States.

On June 24, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B110-19. This tape was found to contain the following:

A sermon and rally led by JIM JONES including a question and answer period as well as testimony of spiritual awareness by a member of the congregation. This sermon consists of approximately 42 minutes.

Differences with FBI Summary:

The summary is accurate – with the exception of the fact that it lasts approximately 80 minutes instead of 42 – and meets the FBI’s purposes.

Tape originally posted October 2000