“Ever Faithful”: The contest between Mother Divine, Jim Jones and their followers for supremacy in faithfulness to the Cause

by E. Black

(E. Black is a frequent contributor to the jonestown report. Her other article in this edition is I’d Like to Thank Father. Her previous writings can be found here.)

On November 18, 1978, the largest mass death of a group of US citizens to that date occurred at the Peoples Temple Agricultural Settlement, better known as Jonestown. Almost 1,000 men, women and children lay dead in and around the settlement’s central pavilion. About six miles away at the grassy airstrip of tiny Port Kaituma, U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan lay dead, along with several members of the media and a Peoples Temple defector, assassinated by members of Peoples Temple. From the beginning – and to this day – news articles, then books, then movies, dramas and documentaries, and now websites have probed into the questions of how it could have happened and what the causes of the mass deaths were.

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Among the multitude of early responses, one from suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania interests us here. The December 9, 1978 issue of the Peace Mission’s periodical The New Day carried a compilation of articles by Mother Divine, the then-53-year-old white widow of Father Divine and his successor as leader of the Peace Mission Movement, along with a copy of a letter she wrote to a former Peace Mission official, turned Peoples Temple member and advocate. In this compilation – the Peace Mission’s “official” response to the Jonestown, tragedy – Mother Divine summarized her association with Rev. Jim Jones of Peoples Temple which had spanned more than 20 years. She recounted Jones’ “brazen” overtures at attempted “takeover” of the Peace Mission starting in the 1950’s, the long-suffering resistance to such overtures from her husband and – after his death – herself, culminating with her “excommunicating” and “disassociating” Jones and his followers from the Peace Mission. Because of his continued “affrontery [effrontery]” to and “mockery” of God (i.e. her late husband) and his “misuse” of “the Power of the Universe,” Jones and his followers were “destroyed.” This, in her view, was the cause of the Guyana tragedy. [1]

There is a note of “cautionary triumphalism” – a sort of “I told you so” – in Mother Divine’s account. Jones and Mother Divine were bitter rivals for the legacy of the utopian progressive social mission of Father Divine, i.e., the cause. As such, missing from her account, but implied, was Jones’ very real success in luring some of Father Divine’s followers away from the Peace Mission and into Peoples Temple. [2] But why did some leave the familiar certainty of a secure life in the Peace Mission under Mother Divine for a “new” life as members of Peoples Temple? What were the similarities and differences in life at the Mission and in the Temple? How were these former Divinites received once they accepted Jones as leader? And did all stay faithful to their “new Father,” Jim Jones? What role may questions or critiques of Mother Divine’s leadership of the Peace Mission itself have played in the decision of some Divinites to see Jim Jones as Father Divine’s “true” successor in the “cause”? The quest for answers to these and other questions are the theme of this paper.

Father Divine, Jim Jones and Black Women

In attempting to approach some informed answers to these questions, we need to begin with a brief assessment of the gender dynamics of both the Peace Mission and Peoples Temple. While each was led and organized by a man, and each had men as members at all levels, the membership in both was overwhelmingly Black and female, and indeed, the original First Lady of the Peace Mission, Peninnah Divine, was a black woman. In many ways, both the Peace Mission and Peoples Temple were Black women’s movements, structured around and addressing the needs, hopes, fears, and societal disparities and deprivations of middle-aged and elderly Black females in 20th-century inner city America. [3] Although beyond the scope of this paper, this dynamic is an important backdrop to understand what is discussed here. And as far as this researcher has ascertained, although one Black male and possibly more than one white female were among them the majority of former Divinites turned People Temple members were Black women.

Dissension in the ranks of the Peace Mission as Mother goes from Elderly and Black to Young and White.

Throughout its history, the Peace Mission suffered dissension. The movement’s difficulties of 1937 and 1938 get particular attention from scholars. [4] Another defining one – one for an understanding the disaffection of some of its members – were the circumstances and scandal surrounding the unheralded death of Peninnah Divine [5] in 1943 and Father Divine’s secret remarriage to his young blonde secretary in 1946.

These two related events – once made public and taking place at the historic beginning of the Peace Mission’s slow decline – had a disastrous effect on the public face of the Divine movement as well as a defining effect inside it. [6] In some ways, the pre- and post-1940’s Peace Missions were different organizations in terms of scope, influence, reach and intent. [7] The reverberations from Father Divine’s remarriage to Edna Rose Ritchings, forever after known as Mother Divine, and her subsequent assumption of the helm of the Peace Mission, serve as important issues for those who decided to leave the Peace Mission for Peoples Temple.

By raising the public contradiction of the death of a high profile Divinite – i.e., the original Mother Divine – and recasting it as a purposeful reincarnation, Father Divine laid not only a reconsideration for the future interpretations of deaths among his followers as “reincarnations,” but also he unwittingly laid the groundwork and conceptual ideological/theological rational that Jim Jones would later use and some Divinites would accept, as he began his quest to succeed Father Divine. [8]

Jim Jones critiques Father Divine and the Temple Critiques the Peace Mission under Mother Divine in the name of the cause [9]

Jim Jones began his critique of Father Divine shortly after he encountered the Peace Mission in the mid 1950’s. As Mother Divine noted later, Jim Jones let it be known from the very beginning that he intended to “take Father’s place.” [10]

This is not as odd or confrontational as it may appear at first glances. Father Divine’s stated goal was to have those who were “true followers” to be like him, independent as “God” in their own right. He also taught on the “reincarnation” of “God.” Upon Father Divine’s death (called his “sacrifice” or his voluntarily “laying his body down”), Peace Mission members expected him to “rise again.” They still do. [11] It was Jim Jones’ subsequent life long quest to show and prove that he was the reincarnation/continuation of the “God” that Father Divine had been. [12]

As such, Jim Jones was referred to as “God,” “Father,” and “Dad,” and with him as the “true” Father Divine the “true” Mother Divine was Marceline Jones, aka “God’s Wife.” Accordingly he referred to his Peace Mission converts, mostly middle-aged and elderly black women, as his “children.” [13]

The “false” Mother Divine and her leadership came under criticism by Jones and his lieutenants. Chief complaints were over her alleged “arrogance,” “haughtiness,” and “racism” as illustrated by her life as a “white mistress” in a “castle,” exploiting the labor of unpaid toiling Blacks. In the eyes of the Temple faithful, though, her most fundamental sin was that she selfishly clung to her “privileged life” and refused to humbly step aside and recognize Jim Jones as the “true” leader of the cause. [14]

Mary Love, Ever Rejoicing, Love Joy, Heavenly Love and other Divinites Join Peoples Temple [15]

Of the dozen or more known former followers of Mother Divine to recognize Jim Jones as the reincarnation of Father Divine, the most prominent was Amanda Poindexter, aka Ever Rejoicing, or – as she was affectionately known to her new brothers and sisters in Peoples Temple – Sister (or Mother) Ever.

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A follower of Father Divine for 30 years before she recognized Jim Jones as his reincarnation, she was the Peoples Temple female member whom Jones proudly referred to as the centenarian among them (although she was only 97 when she died in Jonestown in November 1978, according to her passport). Nearly six feet tall, she is described in the words of one former Temple member as cutting “an unforgettable profile … spunky and gorgeous … as thin as could be – and always topped by a champagne-blond Dutch boy wig… [who could] entertain her listeners for hours on end.” [16] She is shown prominently in several Peoples Temple videos, singing and clapping her hands, praising Father Jim Jones, almost as the quintessential “Black grandmother” and “senior.” In another video, she lights up as “Father” visits her in her Redwood valley dorm and kisses her on the cheek while discussing an upcoming Temple excursion to Mexico. [17]

In 1974, she made front page news in the Temples publication entitled Family Good News as she celebrated what was billed as her 99th birthday. Along with publishing part of her autobiography, the paper thanks her “for the tremendous inspiration that she has been since she came to the family from Philadelphia over two years ago.” [18]

She continued to be of note, even after the migration to Jonestown. Though not specified in the literature, it is assumed by this researcher that her Jonestown residence was in the female seniors’ dorm. [19] Whether she made it to the White Night at the pavilion or sat it out in the dorm is unknown. But given her energy and spryness even at her advanced age and her devotion to “Father” and “the cause” were well noted, it seems reasonable to assume that she was at the pavilion on the last day, “ever rejoicing” right up to the end.

Mary Love, later Mary Black, was the next most prominent former Divinite mentioned in the literature by name. She was the only former Peace Mission “official” or former “Angel” of both Father and Mother Divine to defect to the Temple after having served as such possibly as early as the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. [20] In the Temple she became a roommate of white Temple stalwart Laurie Kahalas, and worked with other higher ups, playing the part of “housemother” or shepherd to the elderly women, including Ever Rejoicing and others in her charge, who followed her into Peoples Temple.

Utterly and unshakably devoted to Jim Jones, she made public her decision to join Peoples Temple in writings to Mother Divine and the secretaries, and appealed to the leaders of the Peace Mission to accept the obvious “truth”: That Father Divine had indeed returned as Jim Jones. A photo shows her helping her new “God in a body” in a Peoples Temple baptism, held in the swimming pool in the Redwood Temples Headquarters. [21] Rumored to have believed that she had been Jones’ wife in a previous life, she lived out her time in the Temple as she had in the Peace Mission before it, in devoted love for and service to “Father.” Mary Black, like the others that she helped lead there, sealed her loyalty to “the cause” with her death in the mass suicides at Jonestown, Guyana.

Other senior former Divinite faithful turned Temple-ites known from the literature are Love Joy, Heavenly Love, Love Life, Truth Heart (Hart) and others. [22]

Conclusion

In 1978, Jim Jones and Mother Divine headed movements that both harmonized and competed with aspects of the life, teachings and cause of Father Divine throughout his public career of more than 40 years. They shared the same conceptual worldview, though wording it at times quite differently. [23] Their rivalry was bitter, and their respective followers were partisan, and tensions were exacerbated by defections from each camp to the other. [24] Thus while more similar than not, the two groups radically differed about the meaning of the end of Peoples Temple.

Mother Divine and her followers interpreted the tragic ending as a form of supreme “retribution” against Jones for (mis)using his acknowledged powers to “mock” and challenge her position as head of the Peace Mission Movement and, by doing so, led others into challenging her as well. Jim Jones, on the other hand, used similar language on the last day in Jonestown that Mother Divine had used while summing up the meaning of the death of God, Father Divine, in 1965, i.e. the “laying down” of “the body” as a supreme act of “sacrifice” on behalf of “Justice” and “righteousness” and against “inhumanity.” [25]

Thus, far from being a result of some type of “retribution” for the Temple faithful, the end was, in their view, an act of supreme faithfulness to “the cause,” the very same “cause” that Father Divine had “laid his body down” for. This was especially true for the former Peace Mission members among them. For them, Father Divine may have started it, but Jim Jones had perfected it, and then finished it. [26]

Sources

Books and articles

Ashcraft, Michael and Dereck Daschke. New Religious Movements: A Documentary Reader. New York: NYU Press, 2005.

Black, E. The Three Virtual Intentional Communities Of God In A Body In Real Time (1868-2008), 2009.

––, The Reincarnations Of God: George Baker Jr. and Jim Jones as Fathers Divine, 2010.

Chidester, David. Salvation and Suicide: An Interpretation of Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple and Jonestown. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.

Divine, Mother. The Peace Mission Movement. New York: Anno Domini Father Divine Publications, 1982.

Hall, John R. Gone from the Promised Land: Jonestown in American Cultural History. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1987.

Harris, Sara. Father Divine: Holy Husband. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1971.

Kahalas, Laurie Efrein. Snake Dance: Unraveling the Mysteries of Jonestown. New York: Red Robin Press, 1998.

Klineman, George. The Cult that Died: The Tragedy of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple. New York: Putnam, 1980.

Mabee, Carleton. Promised Land: Father Divine’s Interracial Communities in Ulster County, New York. Fleischmanns, NY: Purple Mountain Press, 2008.

Meiers, Michael. Was Jonestown a CIA Medical Experiment? A Review of the Evidence. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1988.

Miller, Timothy. America’s Alternative Religions. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.

Mills, Jeannie. Six Years with God: Life Inside Reverend Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple. New York: A&W Publishers, 1979.

Moore, Rebecca and Anthony B. Pinn, Mary R. Sawyer, eds. Peoples Temple and Black Religion in America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004.

Parker, Robert Allerton. The Incredible Messiah: The Deification of Father Divine. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1937.

Reiterman, Tim with John Jacobs. Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People. New York: Dutton, 1982.

Rose, Stephen C. Jesus and Jim Jones. New York: Pilgrim Press, 1979.

Stephenson, Denice, ed. Dear People: Remembering Jonestown. San Francisco: California Historical Society Press, 2005.

Thielmann, Bonnie with Dean Merrill. The Broken God. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook, 1979.

Watts, Jill. God, Harlem, U.S.A.: The Father Divine Story. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

Weisbrot, Robert. Father Divine. Boston: Beacon Press, 1984.

—–. Father Divine: Religious Leader. New York: Chelsea House, 1992.

West, Cornel and Eddie S. Glaude Jr. African American Religious Thought: An Anthology. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003.

Periodicals

The Afro-American, November 5, 1960

The Living Word, Peoples Temple

The New Day, International Peace Mission Movement

The New Day, December 9, 1978.

Pirro, J.F., Prodigal Son (Part 1), Mainline Today.

Websites

http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/
Letter to God’s Wife, RYMUR 89-4286-EE-3-LL
Q 162
Q 955
Richard Tropp’s Last Letter

Wikipedia entries
Father Divine
International Peace Mission Movement


Endnotes

[1] For Mother Divine’s Peace Mission Movement’s official view on the end of Jim Jones, Peoples Temple and Jonestown see Chapter 12, “Rev. Jones Cut Down by Retribution; Takes Hundreds with Him in Death Pact; Once Sought Control of Peace Mission Movement” in Mother Divine, The Peace Mission Movement. (New York: Anno Domini Father Divine Publications, 1982), 137-141.

[2] For a brief overview of the rivalry between Mother Divine and Jim Jones, its causes and outcome see E. Black, The Three Virtual Intentional Communities Of God In A Body In Real Time (1868-2008), 2009.

[3] For the Divine Movement as a black woman’s movement, see the section, “Father Divine’s 1930s Peace mission movement” in Beryl Satter, “Marcus Garvey, Father Divine and the Gender Politics of Race Difference and Race Neutrality” in Cornel West and Eddie S. Glaude Jr., eds., African American Religious Thought: An Anthology (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), 581-587. For black female demographics in Peoples Temple, see Rebecca Moore, “Demographics and the Black Religious Culture of Peoples Temple” in Rebecca Moore, Anthony B. Pinn, Mary R. Sawyer, eds., Peoples Temple and Black Religion in America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004), 57-80, esp. figure 2, page 62.

On the first Mother Divine of the Peace Mission Movement, a black woman named Peninnah Divine, see Carleton Mabee, Promised Land: Father Divine’s Interracial Communities in Ulster County, New York (Fleischmanns, NY: Purple Mountain Press, 2008), 116. For Peninnah’s central role in the developing of the signature Divinite ritual “the communion banquet” as well as her leadership of the movement during Divine’s incarceration, see Jill Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A.: The Father Divine Story (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 45-46, 76, 98-99.

[4] On sexual and other scandals in the Divine movement of the 1930s, see Watts, 144-166; Mabee, 26-28, 123-133. See also Robert Parker, The Incredible Messiah: The Deification of Father Divine (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1937), chapter 3, “Faithful Mary,” 60-77; and chapter 11, “Legal Conflicts,” 262-283. Sara Harris (Father Divine: Holy Husband. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1971) deals throughout with scandals of the Peace Mission. The Wikipedia entry on The International Peace Mission Movement deals with 1930’s scandals as well.

[5] On the secrecy and mystery surrounding the death of Peninnah Divine and some reactions, see Mabee, 116-117; Watts, 167; and Harris, 243.

[6] On the impact of the elderly and ostensibly celibate marriage of Father Divine to his young white Canadian former secretary, “Sweet Angel,” including internal dissent, membership turnovers and high level defections, see Harris, Chapter 17, “God Takes a Bride”; Watts, 167-169; and Mabee, 117-120.

[7] Mabee is an excellent source for the documentation on the decline of the Peace Mission Movement. See section E, “Slowing Down,” 199-223 (especially note 41); “Decline and Succession,” 207- 214 (esp. chart and graph, 207). Mabee dates the beginning of the Peace Mission’s “decline” as 1941.

[8] On the lasting negative impact and dissension towards and resentment of Edna Rose Ritchings, first in 1946 as the new “Mother,” then in 1965 as the new “leader” of the Peace Mission among some followers, see J.F. Pirro, Prodigal Son (Part 1).

On Father Divine’s rationalizations and interpretation of Peninnah Divine’s death and reincarnation, which serves as a core rationalization of the post-1965 leadership of the Peace Mission by Sweet Angel (Mother) Divine, see Harris, 243-246; Watts, 168-169; and Mabee, 118-119.

On Jim Jones’ use of this rationale to be “Father” in the “second body” and, thus, in effect having “Father” go from “elderly and Black” to “young and white” in 1965, just as “Mother” Divine had in 1943, see, E. Black, Three Virtual Intentional Communities, and Tim Reiterman with John Jacobs, Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People (New York: Dutton, 1982), 139.

[9] An example of the critique of Father Divine and Jones’ attempt to show that his temple was the “true” embodiment of the movement comes from Jonestown Tape Q 955, in which Jones has a dialogue with a former Peace Mission convert to Peoples Temple named “Valerie.” From the summary of the tape:

The example of Father Divine …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.’ These and other critiques were part of a reorientation to have members disinvest belief in the deceased Father Divine, so as to see, clearly who truly was the living ‘God’ of the movement: Jim Jones.

On Jim Jones’ critique of Father Divine as an eventualy “failed leader” of the cause that Divine had created but that he, Jim Jones, had to rescue, lead, and finish, see Jeannie Mills, Six Years with God: Life Inside Reverend Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple (New York: A&W Publishers, 1979), 176-177.

[10] Mother Divine, 137.

[11] On Father Divine’s teaching on the “independence” of his “true” followers, see Mother Divine, 21, 36, 40, 84-85 and 167-168.

On Father Divine’s teaching on reincarnation, see Mabee, 119; and Mother Divine, 51. On its origin in the Peace Mission due to the impact of the New Thought influence and teachings in the Movement early on, see Watts, 23.

On Father Divine’s expected reincarnation by his followers, see Mother Divine, 102-103; Watts, 173; Robert Weisbrot, Father Divine (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984) and Weisbrot, Father Divine: Religious Leader (New York: Chelsea House, 1992); and Chapter 27, “African-American Freedom movements” in Michael Ashcraft and Dereck Daschke, eds., New Religious Movements: A Documentary Reader (New York, NYU Press, 2005), 289.

[12] On Jones’ claims to be Father Divine reincarnated, see Mother Divine, 137-141; Mabee, 213-214; E. Black, Three Virtual Intentional Communities; Reiterman, 139-141; and Wikipedia’s entry on Father Divine.

[13] On Jim Jones being called Father, see C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence H. Mamiya “Daddy Jones and Father Divine: The Cult as Political Religion,” in Moore, et al., Peoples Temple and Black Religion in America, 28-46.

On Marceline Jones as “God’s Wife” and the “true” Mother Divine, see Letter to God’s Wife, RYMUR 89-4286-EE-3-LL; and E. Black, Three Virtual Intentional Communities.

On Jones referring to himself as the “very same” Jesus and the “very same” God and the Peace Mission converts as his “children,” see Jonestown Tape Q 162.

[14] Laurie Efrein Kahalas, a long time Peoples Temple member and advocate who traveled to Philadelphia in 1971 on what she termed as a Peoples Temple “rescue mission” of potential followers still “trapped” and “exploited” inside the Peace Mission, characterized Mother Divine as an “arrogant, … willful” and “imperious creature” who “lived high on the hog” while the Peace Mission members lived in poverty (she included the late Father Divine in this criticism of the ostentatious life style at the Peace Mission headquarters at Woodmount as well). See chapter 11, “Father is God,” in Laurie Efrein Kahalas, Snake Dance: Unraveling the Mysteries of Jonestown (New York: Red Robin Press, 1998), 87-90. Similar criticisms and negative reflections about the opulent lifestyle of Mother Divine continued to rankle members who stayed with the Mission, decades after the Jonestown tragedy of 1978. See Pirro.

[15] Some of the names of Peace Mission converts to Peoples Temple are Angel Child, Curtis Walker (Black Male), Florine, Ever Rejoicing, Grace Love Berry, Heavenly Love, Joshua Matthews (Male), Joy Sunshine, Life Everlasting, Love Joy, Love Life, Mary Love, Meekness Faith, Purity Lamb, Rose Of Sharon, Simon Peter (Female), Truth Heart, Valarie Saint John and Virgin Humble. As there may be as few as 20 or as many as 40 or more converts in this category (per the remarks of former Peace Mission followers who witnessed the 1971 Peace Mission “depatures”), this should not be considered an exhaustive list.

[16] Description of Ever Rejoicing from Chapter 7, “God in a Body,” in Bonnie Thielmann with Dean Merrill, The Broken God (Elgin, IL: David C. Cook, 1979), 63-64. Two pictures of Ever Rejoicing appear here.

[17] Ever Rejoicing can also be seen in Peoples Temple, a 1973 documentary by David Gottlieb.

[18] Excerpts from the autobiography of Amanda Poindexter appear in Denice Stephenson, ed., Dear People: Remembering Jonestown (San Francisco: California Historical Society Press, 2005), 51-52.

[19] See arrival of Ever Rejoicing in Jonestown, Dec 30 1977 on Entry Dates Into Guyana, as well as her living quarters assignment in Residences in Jonestown.

[20] Mary Love aka Blessed Mary Love aka Mary Black, is mentioned in George Klineman, The Cult that Died: The Tragedy of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple (New York: Putnam, 1980); Michael Meiers, Was Jonestown a CIA Medical Experiment? A Review of the Evidence (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1988); and Weisbrot. She is referred to by inference by Mother Divine, 139. It is possible that she may be the “Miss Love” mentioned in the article about the death of a Divinite in The Afro-American, November 5, 1960. But then again the name “Love” was ubiquitous among the followers of Father Divine in 1960, much as the name “Smith” is in the general population.

[21] On roommates, from a personal communication between the author and Ms. Kahalas.

On role in Peoples Temple, see Klineman, 211. On the role of and duties of a Divinite “Angel” or “co-worker,” as Mary Love had been while in the Peace Mission, see Mother Divine, 2 -26.

On Mary Love vs Mother Divine, see Mother Divine 139; Divinite publication The New Day, December 9, 1978, 1, 12-18; and also Watts, who mistakenly suggests that only one follower left Mother Divine for Jim Jones. This work corrects that mistake, as only one “Angel”/secretary, i.e., Mary Love, left the Peace Mission for Peoples Temple, but many rank and file members/followers left with her.

The picture of Mary Love assisting Father Jones in baptism of members in the Redwood Valley Temple Headquarters comes from Mills.

[22] Other former Divinites cum Peoples Temple faithful include Heavenly Love (Helen Love); Mary Love (Mary Emma Love Lewis Black); Love Life (Georgia Belle); and Love Joy (Olar Watts).

[23] On the broad similarities between the Peace Mission Movement and Peoples Temple despite some obvious differences (partial list) see chapter 5, “Father Divine,” in Stephen C. Rose, Jesus and Jim Jones (New York: Pilgrim Press, 1979), 75-85; John R. Hall, Gone from the Promised Land: Jonestown in American Cultural History (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1987), 51-52, 69, 72-73, 79-78; David Chidester, Salvation and Suicide: An Interpretation of Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple and Jonestown (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 6,7 and 39; Reiterman, 58-59, 65-66; Lincoln and Mamiya in Moore, 28-46; Part 5, “African-American Freedom Movements in Timothy Miller, America’s Alternative Religions (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995), 275; Mabee, 213-214; E. Black, Three Virtual Intentional Communities; and E. Black, The Reincarnations Of God: George Baker Jr. and Jim Jones as Fathers Divine, 2010.

[24] Though cordial until his “excommunication” by Mother Divine in 1972, both Mother Divine and Father Jones bore much animosity towards each other. After the 1971 incident during which Father Jones, at the very spot where the deceased Father Divine had ruled from, declared that he was Father Divine reincarnated, backing it up with testimonials and miracles to that effect, the next encounters were particularly testy. One had Jim Jones accusing Father Divine’s allegedly “spotless” and “virgin” widow with making a most “unholy” proposal to him: If he wished to rule the Peace Mission Movement in Father Divine’s place, then he, Jones, must have sex with her, Divine’s widow, on the spot, in Divine’s former office. Father Jones said he declined. Mother Divine says he was lying. Whatever the truth of the charges, it was downhill from there, with partisans on both sides almost coming to violence over the claims and counterclaims in further face-to-face encounters. See Reiterman and Klineman for details.

Of the Peace Mission “defectors” to Peoples Temple, some were “plants,” sent by Mother Divine to scout the opposition. After gathering first-hand information on Jones and the Temple (one even attempting to counter a former Divinit cum Temple member, who was exposing the late Father Divine’s sexual improprieties to her new Temple comrades) these “defectors,” after a time, “re-defected” back to the Peace Mission, filled with ammunition for the Divinit faithful against the Temple. The info provided from these returned Peace Mission agents, along with the continued Peace Mission-focused Temple writing campaign, culminated in Mother Divine’s “Temple excommunication” order of July 16, 1972. See Mills, 177-178; Mother Divine, 139-140.

But conversely Jim Jones’ attacks against Mother Divine must have reverberated inside her Peace Mission among some, as even after she had issued the “excommunication order” of Jones and his “followers,” an order that had emphatically included the instruction to her lieutenants not to “extend to [the Temple-ites] any hospitality whatsoever!” some Divinits hosted Jim Jones in one of their facilities in Philadelphia five years later! See Tape Q 162.

[25] In a remarkable demonstration of this, see Mother Divine, 99-100. Though published in 1982, she uses words that she spoke in 1971 about the death of her husband, Father Divine, that are the exact same phraseology that Jim Jones would later use when speaking to his followers about their impending collective death during the final “White Night” in Jonestown in 1978.

[26] On Jim Jones “leading” and “finishing” the cause that Father Divine had started, but left undone, see Mills, 176; Kahalas, 87-89. On the collective death of Peoples Temple at Jonestown as a “victorious … finish” to the “cause,” see the “Suicide Note” of Richard Tropp in Ashcraft and Daschke, 252-254. The note also appears here.

Originally posted on July 25th, 2013.

Last modified on May 18th, 2020.
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