Jim Jones fooled the Peoples Temple congregation. He convinced his mostly Christian followers that God was speaking through him to deliver his/God’s messages. He also duped people into believing that God had given him supernatural powers (i.e., healing, foreseeing the future).
I attended Peoples Temple once – but only once – with my sister, Melanie Simon. After she left me alone in my seat – she was working inside the church – a group of about three men approached me and told me this story of Jones healing someone and “magically” putting out a fire. I don’t remember the details, but I do remember the stare and stern look on their faces, trying to determine if I believed them or not. I felt extremely uncomfortable, and they knew by my expression that I did not believe them.
But Melanie did. She would tell us how Jones would predict that past members would be involved in horrible car accidents and/ or seriously injured. In subsequent sermons, Jones would tell the members how the prophecies had come to pass. I think Jones intimidated the members into believing that if they left the church, something bad would happened to them.
Melanie and other church members had large head-and-shoulder photographs of Jim Jones hanging in their homes, similar to a picture one would hang of Jesus Christ.
I believe the members did not think of Peoples Temple as a cult, but rather viewed Jones as having been given the gift of supernatural powers from God and doing God’s will. Many Christians believe in God speaking through a person on earth. Jones took advantage of that belief and expanded on it to control his congregation.
(Jacinta Hector Powers’ other article in this edition of the jonestown report is Memories of My Sister.)