What is the correct spelling of Peoples Temple?

• While there are documents which indicate the contrary, the group was best known as Peoples Temple, without the article “the” preceding it. In its use as an adjective – “the Peoples Temple choir,” “the Peoples Temple philosophy,” “the Peoples Temple leadership” – the “the” is appropriate, but as a stand-alone name, the group’s name is simply “Peoples Temple.”

• Similarly, there is no apostrophe in Peoples Temple. There are references throughout newspaper articles, legal documents, correspondence and even some of the Temple’s own material – especially from its Indiana and early Redwood Valley days – to People’s Temple or, even more rarely, Peoples’ Temple, but the preferred spelling is “Peoples Temple.”

According to Jeff Guinn (2017: 79), when Wings of Deliverance – the original name of Jones’ church – moved to an old synagogue at the corner of 10th and Delaware in Indianapolis, the word “Temple” was carved in stone outside the building. The group, or Jones, decided to keep that language. And it became “Peoples Temple, not People’s, because the apostrophe symbolized ownership. After all, one of the key Temple goals was to discourage obsession with material possession.” Yet another explanation for the name comes from John R. Hall (1987: 43–44), who says that use of the term temple was widespread in Pentecostal Christianity. And, “emphasizing the populist orientation of their group, they called themselves Peoples Temple.”

The play called The People’s Temple deliberately inserted the apostrophe to differentiate the drama from the group itself.

Originally posted on June 15th, 2013.

Last modified on October 21st, 2021.
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