Ben Barrett

To be absolutely honest I enrolled in the “Jonestown: Stories of a Cult” class to fulfill the core requirements for the Bucknell curriculum. I saw that it covered a couple of the areas I needed and the class didn’t sound too awful. I had heard of the Jonestown story before but was pretty shady on the details. Everything I knew was just mentioned in passing conversation, and I had never taken the time to sit down and research the event.

Now as I look back to the beginning of the semester and compare it to what I know now about the entire compilation that is the history of Peoples Temple, the stark difference is amazing. I am so glad that I had the chance to embark on this exploration of the organization and gain a much fuller understanding of Jim Jones and his people.

I think starting off the semester with reading Raven was definitely the right move to provide a solid foundation of Peoples Temple. The book chronicled so much of the history of not only Peoples Temple, but also Jim Jones and many of his acquaintances. After reading Raven, it was then much easier to understand and appreciate others differing viewpoints. The main item I tried to keep in mind as we read through the literature and listened to the lectures is that every single person is going to have a different view on Peoples Temple. Everyone’s testimony is just another piece of the puzzle that all builds up to build the mosaic that is Peoples Temple. With the array of readings and speakers that came in to Bucknell, I believe that we were able to develop a rich understanding of Peoples Temple and its members, and viewed them in a much more positive light than they are typically attributed.

One of the elements of the class that really helped engage everyone was the presented narratives that all of us designed and performed. When the narrative project was first described I really had no idea what I was going to do or where to start. After making the lists of significant events and people I was able to narrow down who struck me as most influential. For my narratives I chose to focus on Stephan Jones and Christine Miller. For me both of these individuals were particularly heroic, especially on the day of the final White Night. Both Stephan and Christine acted selflessly in an attempt to save the li ves of their friends and family. To start my research on both characters I turned to the Jonestown Institute website. The site actually turned out to be rich in information for Stephan and Christine, with article contributions and pictures from a variety of sources. I also looked to articles from major news corporations such as NBC and got a few of my pictures from the Flickr account managed by the members of Peoples Temple.

For my narrative on Stephan Jones I knew I wanted to focus on the final day when Jim Jones issued the order for Revolutionary Suicide. It was on this day that Stephan called desperately to the United States from Georgetown to beg members there to not go through with the suicide. He was also able to convince almost everyone in Georgetown to not commit suicide, as well. For my narrative I really wanted some form of testimony from someone in the United States about that day, which I was finally able to obtain thanks to Leigh Fondakowski’s book. In her book she includes an extremely moving interview between her and a woman that Stephan was in contact with on that day, and the woman credits Stephan with saving her life. This was exactly the material I was looking for, and I began to write my narrative with a focus around the interview.

Christine Miller’s true heroic moment came in Jonestown as Jim Jones was attempting to convince his followers to take the cyanide and commit suicide with him. Christine stands in defiance to Jones and speaks in favor of life. She had the bravery to get up on stage with Jones and voice her opinions in an attempt to save the lives of those in Peoples Temple – especially the children. When one listens to the infamous Death Tape, Christine Miller’s voice is the only one that speaks up in dissent of the entire suicide plan. Since the Death Tape is really the only evidence of Christine’s heroism and is by far the most powerful, I knew from the beginning that I wan ted to incorporate that into my narrative. I had the idea of playing clips of the tape over speakers placed in the audience, so came up with a few narrative ideas in which this would be possible.

The next step was to meet with Professor Gainer, so I went in to his office with all of my ideas. I already had a fairly good plan of where I was going to take my narratives. When I sat down with Professor Gainer he was very receptive to my ideas and thought that they would all work well. He then helped me map out the order and structure of my presentations and suggested working with Chloe Drennen for the Christine Miller presentation, since both of us were planning on highlighting Christine as one of our influential characters. After communicating with Chloe, we both decided that working together would most likely produce the best result and avoid repetitiveness in the class response, so began to collaborate on our character narrative.

Both of my narratives for Stephan and Christine ended up taking on the same general format. Each began with an introduction in which the character was first established as influential and significant, and then there was a transition to the main evidence and reasoning for the character’s importance, followed by a conclusion and personal reflection. The bulk of the Stephan Jones presentation was originally going to include a reading of the interview from Leigh Fondakowski book and a clip of an interview with Stephan Jones immediately following the events in Jonestown to document his response to the event. In parallel, the Christine Miller narrative was going to include several clips of Christine speaking, as well as a few of Jim Jones as if in response to Christine’s pleas. Unfortunately, due to time constraints the Stephan Jones interview and Jim Jones tape clips had to be cut from the narratives. The narrative script in the introduction and conclusion was also trimmed down to fit within the designated time. Cutting down and editing the presentations to turn it into a workable yet still effective and powerful narrative was most likely the most difficult portion of creating the narratives.

When we presented our narratives to the live audience that was only the third time we had all performed them together en masse. The very first run through was pretty disjointed and we ran way over time, with the presentations taking over three hours – and that was without everyone in attendance. The audio and video was also out of sync and people were still hashing out who they wanted to read their narratives and where they would stand on stage. After some major edits and revisions we were ready for the second dress rehearsal, which was only a few days before the actual presentation. The performances were definitely better, but still there was room for improvement and some of the technology had to be touched up. At that point I was still a little skeptical as to how our narratives were going to turn out. However, I had high hopes – if all the technology and transitions ran as they were supposed to.

On the day of our presentation I was feeling pretty good about my portion of the narratives. I had made sure to review my lines to ensure that I would at least contribute what I was supposed to in our class narrative. As we took our seats and the narratives started, the class presentation really took off. Although I had heard some of it in the dress rehearsals, it was truly amazing to sit there and listen to all of the different perspectives that each member of the class brought to the table. Just as the members of Peoples Temple view the organization quite differently, everyone in the class chose to take on their own understanding of the Temple in a personal manner. There were poems, stories, and personal thoughts, and all of a separate viewpoint. While I chose to view Christine Miller as a hero, the narrative immediately following mine presented her in an almost cynical form. I felt that both of my presentations went as I had wanted them to, and I was able to effectively communicate my opinions and respect for both of my characters. The help I requested for my presentations was delivered without a hitch and everything went smoothly. Overall I was extremely pleased with how all of our narratives turned out.

The moment that really stood out for me from that night is after we all read our class closing statement, received our applause, and took our seats. As we all got up to leave, Professor Gainer and Deb gathered us all around in a circle and talked about how special it was to watch our narratives all come together. I remember Deb saying that the man running the sound was blown away by the performance – and he had been there for every single one of the dress rehearsals. It was then that I realized that in presenting our narratives we had created something that was bigger than ourselves. We had all demonstrated a true and personal understanding of the incredible and complex entity that was and is Peoples Temple.

I think the Jonestown narratives were significant in relation to all of the readings and lectures that we analyzed over the course of the semester because that was our first real chance to express our true and honest opinions of Peoples Temple and Jonestown. We were given free reign to explore whatever aspect of Peoples Temple we wished and present it in any narrative form we could imagine. Allowing for such creative freedom was what established such an effective and powerful presentation. Each student’s interpretation reflected how they were able to analyze and comprehend Jonestown. Students were attracted to different characters because they were able to relate to them on a personal level. Some people looked to different characters as heroes, some were able to see themselves in a character, and then some were completely perplexed by an individual’s actions. No matter the reasoning, the aspect of personal connection created a true reflection and personal narrative for each student.

After our class responses, I think it was amazing to be awarded the opportunity to hear Stephan Jones speak. Not only was Stephan one of the most crucial players in the entire Peoples Temple organization, but he was also one of the individuals that I chose to focus on for my personal narrative. I had been looking forward to the talk with Stephan since the beginning of the semester, and he did not disappoint. As I was sitting in Hunt Formal listening to Stephan explain a few of his very personal experiences with the Temple, I looked around the room at everyone from the Jonestown class and I was able to appreciate just how far we had all come. It felt as if we had all embarked on a journey together in an attempt to understand the extremely complex and multi-faceted history of Peoples Temple. The literature, speakers, and personal narratives all combined to form a deep and genuine appreciation of Peoples Temple: Stories of a Cult.

Jonestown Responses

Rebecca Moore

Rebecca Moore’s book , Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple, differed on several s levels from Reiterman’s Raven, so provided an interesting contrast when these books were read back-to-back . Reiterman has a very clear and defined opinion of Jim Jones – that he was an evil maniac from the very beginning of his existence and his problem only progressed as he aged. Reiterman does provide evidence for hi s viewpoint, however the pathway he chooses to embark upon to present his data is surely biased since he happened to be a victim of the massacre at Port Kaituma air strip. Rebecca Moore on the other hand was connected to Peoples Temple in a much different way. Moore’s two sisters, Carolyn Layton and Annie Moore, were members of Peoples Temple and unfortunately passed away during the final White Night. Another victim of the mass suicide/murder was Carolyn’s son fathered by Jim Jones, so in total Moore lost three relatives that fateful day. As Moore writes she strongly tries to avoid the negative cult bias that so often involves Jones and Peoples Temple. As she states in her title, Moore writes for the mere purpose of trying to establish an understanding of the people in this organization and what drove them to commit such a drastic act. Moore structures her book in mini focus topics that consequently involves a lot of chronological jumping around. This strategy is effective for Moore because it allows her to explore a n issue that intrigues her, study the events of the occurrence, and then provide options for additional reading at the end of each section.

I found Rebecca Moore’s lecture to be very intriguing as she analyzed Peoples Temple from a political perspective and more from an “outside looking in” viewpoint. Although Moore did meet Jones a few times, she stated that she did not find him all that inspiring outside of the sermon environment and so was never interested in joining Peoples Temple. One of the most interesting points made by Moore was that Peoples Temple was first and foremost an African American institution. Moore states that as much as 80 to 90 percent of the organization was comprised of African American members. This number came as a bit of a shock to me because although I knew the number of African Americans held a majority in Peoples Temple, none of the literature we had read so far so clearly defined such a drastic difference. An additional point that Moore touches upon a great deal in her lecture is the inspiration Peoples Temple drew from the Black Panther Party and Huey Newton. Jones embraced man y of the ideals supported by the Black Panthers, including Newton’s statement of the necessity of Revolutionary Suicide – although Jones greatly skewed Newton’s intentions for hi s own benefit. Considering that Africa n Americans held such a great majority in the Temple and looked to the Black Panthers for guidance, it is interesting that almost all of the prominent figures in the Temple were white. Reiterman’s book focuses almost primarily on white characters and the “most famous” people that are often talked about, even in Moore’s book, are white.

Rebecca Moore effectively presented all of her points through a well-written and presented lecture. Of course Moore’s positions had to contain some bias considering her close connection with the Temple. Moore greatly hesitated to insult both the Temple and Jones, and tried to find the good in both organizations. Moore knew her sisters and knew that they were both educated adults. She did not want to characterize the Temple as a cult because of the diversity and education of the members in the organization. She also strongly opposed Reiterman’s opinion of Jones. According to Moore, Jones was born in a poor neighborhood and began with good intentions to heal and help others. It was the lust for power and delusions of grandeur that corrupted Jones slowly over time. However, despite this, I found it interesting to hear Moore state that she truly believed that Jones did possess some sort of paranormal gift. According to Moore, Jones could actually heal people and look at someone and recognize their ailment. In addition to Moore’s prepared lecture, the component of her talk that I found most personal and engaging was when she took questions at the end. In this section her personal beliefs arose more prominently and she was able to share a few anecdotes. I found Moore to possess an interesting opinion of Peoples Temple as she attempted to understand the organization while still defending her sisters’ and other members’ honor.

Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple Film

I found Stanley Nelson’s documentary to be a very moving and powerful presentation of the events surrounding Jonestown and the final fateful White Night. Reading about Jonestown is influential and effective, but nothing can really compare to seeing the images of Jonestown and the members of Peoples Temple, especially after the mass murder/suicide. Another important aspect that the documentary brought to the table was all of the videos spliced into the film from Peoples Temple services and life in Jonestown. Being able to actually see videos of people interacting in the services and hearing the voices of real members and the voice of Jim Jones helped the viewer transport themselves back to the time of Peoples Temple. Parts of the horrific incidents surrounding Jonestown including the Port Kaituma airstrip shooting and Revolutionary Suicide were also caught on film, which further aided the viewer in connecting with the documentary.

I think the most powerful aspect that Stanley Nelson included however was the modern-day interviews with Peoples Temple survivors and people related to others in the organization. These interviews really hit home as to how many people were personally affected by such a tragic loss of so many American citizens. As the people interviewed shared their stories, they often became emotional which definitely pulled on the heartstrings of many of the viewers.

Some of the personal anecdotes were amazingly horrible and upon first hearing them are difficult to believe. The struggles and losses that people had to deal with after the final White Night make the viewer question as to how anyone could ever cope with such tragedy or forgive Peoples Temple.

Stanley Nelson’s documentary is effective because it doesn’t take a clearly biased opinion of the situation. He presents the upbringing of Jim Jones as one filled with a troubled childhood and dysfunctional family life. The film also discusses the beginning of the Peoples Temple movement and all of the philanthropic deeds performed by the organization. Conversely, the evils of Jim Jones are exposed once at Jonestown. The documentary studies Peoples Temple from multiple angles as a means of understanding; the purpose is not for exposing Jones as some evil maniac. This way of presenting the film was effective because it focused on pure facts and introduced little bias, except perhaps in the personal interviews – which would be expected. This allowed the viewer to formulate his or her own opinion of the organization and Jim Jones.

Stanley Nelson

Stanley Nelson is the director of Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, a documentary that covers the history of Peoples Temple from Jim Jones’ childhood to the final White Night in Jonestown. Nelson decided to create the film after his wife heard a radio broadcast interviewing ex-members of Peoples Temple. Nelson and his wife were so inspired to pursue the story of Peoples Temple because despite the great horrors surrounding the final events in Jonestown, the people interviewed over the radio still spoke lovingly about the organization. Many people still claimed that Peoples Temple was the greatest thing to ever happen to them.

After a year of work, Nelson’s final product was a 90-minute film covering the events of Peoples Temple. One of the most interesting aspects of the documentary is that no outside narration is ever used. Nelson relies solely on interviews with ex-members and relatives and tape recordings from Peoples Temple itself. This form of presentation makes the documentary all the more powerful. Instead of hearing some outside narrator’s voice, the viewer of the documentary actually hears Jim Jones speak or sees real footage taken in Jonestown of the members of Peoples Temple. This helps the viewer connect with the movie and is much more effective than re-creation footage. A surprising point that Nelson brought up in his talk is how easily it was to find people to interview for the documentary. He said that most people were part of a very close-knit network – almost like a family – so once he found one member the rest sort of fell into place.

I thought Stanley Nelson’s presentation both in the film and in the talk he gave were effective in conveying the story of Peoples Temple. The documentary itself brought the story to life. Reading about Jim Jones and Peoples Temple is powerful enough, but when footage and recordings can be seen and heard this makes the story all the more real. It’s strange to think that the people shown being interviewed in Jonestown by the NBC news crew are the same ones that become victims in the mass murder just hours later. Nelson’s talk was effective because it provided the background story of what went into creating the documentary. I was amazed by how much work was put into the creation of the film – even without the addition of a narration or self-shot film. This means that the majority of work Nelson had to do was editing, which he stated took about 36 – 40 weeks to complete. This amount of work paid off because the end product was a very powerful documentary that explores Jim Jones and Peoples Temple.

Leigh Fondakowski

It’s always interesting to see how different people are drawn to the Jonestown story. Of course there are the survivors and relatives who had no choice in their involvement with the organization. But all of the other outside sources are attracted to Peoples Temple for a whole variety of reasons. Leigh Fondakowski became involved in Jonestown and Peoples Temple after her successful completion of the Laramie Project. In the Laramie Project, Fondakowski covers the tragic story of Matthew Shepard, a boy who was beaten to death due to his homosexuality. After the Laramie Project gained publicity Fondakowski was approached about taking on a project on Jonestown. Naturally, she agreed.

Fondakowski’s medium for storytelling is through playwriting, which makes her role in the Jonestown story interesting and unique. Fondakowski stated in her talk that as the project was just getting off the ground she participated in a conference call with some survivors who approved the project but were skeptical of the effectiveness of a play. Past plays often focused on portraying Jones as some evil maniac. Fondakowski wanted to take the play in a totally different direction and focus on the people of Peoples Temple. As she clarified, there were so many characters and politics and race politics going on in Peoples Temple that were often passed right over. Fondakowski wanted her play to actually make a difference and be a tribute to life in Peoples Temple.

Of course making an impactful difference in such a complex and debated issue through a play was no easy task. Fondakowski stated that the interviews alone took three years to complete and the play took two years to write. However, from the lecture given by Fondakowski and the positive responses the play got, it seems to me that Fondakowski was successful in making an impact with her work. In her lecture she highlighted a few methods she used to help the audience connect with the play that I thought were very creative and effective. The first was having the same actor play both Stephan and Jim Jones. This was a cool idea because throughout their time in Jonestown, Stephan and Jim acted so radically different and yet if one is to take a step back and really look, they will see that Stephan did not fall too far from the tree. Another idea that sounded very powerful to me was portraying the deaths of the victims of Jonestown by placing blown up photos of the victims’ faces among the Archive boxes. This idea clearly resonated with audience members as well since some even wanted to come up on stage after the production to study the faces of the deceased. Overall Fondakowski’s play seems very impactful and I wish I had gotten a chance to see it.

Jordan Vilchez

When Jordan Vilchez came to speak, that was the first and only time we got to hear a personal account of a woman in Peoples Temple. Not only did Jordan hold the unique position of being a female in the organization, but she was also a member of the Planning Commission under Jim Jones. Jones surrounded himself with attractive, young, white women in his Planning Commission as a means of keeping them under his own private control. Because she was in the Planning Commission, Jordan was granted unique knowledge to certain proceedings that “average” members of the Temple were not awarded. Jordan also was allowed to have a few special privileges, which is essentially what saved her life whilst in Guyana.

Jordan was a member of Peoples Temple from very early on,  being introduced to the organization when she was only 12 years old and staying in the organization until the bitter end. At 16 Jordan was invited to join the Planning Commission, and from then on became one of the high-ranking members of Peoples Temple. Since Jordan was so high up, one of her jobs was to greet and screen newcomers at the beginning of each meeting to determine if they were fit for the Temple. Since Jordan was so involved, when the move to Guyana was decided, Jordan was sent to work in planting. She stated that she didn’t enjoy Jonestown very much, so figured out ways to be allowed to reside in Georgetown. It is this special privilege of being away from the settlement that saved Jordan’s life on the final White Night. She returned to Jonestown just a few days before the mass murder but was allowed by Jones to go back to Georgetown before he issued the order for revolutionary suicide.

In Jordan’s talk she spoke a lot about the mind games that Peoples Temple used to play with its members. Jones pushed socialism on all of his members and convinced his followers that armed guards were necessary. As Jordan stated, one’s personal value was determined by how much they could contribute to their cause. Individual hopes and desires did not exist. This created an environment of gloom and unease – especially in Jonestown. Jordan stated that sometimes she feels handicapped due to her lack of a real childhood. I think because of this, Jordan’s talk was very effective and powerful. She spoke of the personal struggles she and other women faced in the Temple and the pain she had to endure. She touched a lot on the negatives of the Temple, no doubt feeling a sense of displeasure in the entire organization. Jordan’s talk was really the first chance we got at a look inside what life inside the Temple as an inner-circle member was like. Jordan spoke openly and honestly, which is why her presentation was interesting and effective.

Tim Carter

Tim Carter was a character that we had often read about in the Jonestown literature and is considered by some as Jones’ “right-hand man”. Carter was also highlighted extensively in Nelson’s Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple. Going into the lecture I wasn’t sure exactly how Tim Carter was going to be. I wasn’t sure what opinion I had of him – especially if he truly was one of Jones’ closest accomplices. As I sat in the Forum and listened to Tim speak, he struck me as an extremely genuine and passionate man. He has come to full grips with what has happened and seems to despise Jones for it. He feels love for those in Peoples Temple that were his friends and family. Carter was also extremely open about what he would talk about and didn’t hold back. It is through people like Tim Carter that the true events and memories of Peoples Temple will live on.

Tim joined the Marines straight out of high school and was quickly sent to Vietnam. In the war Tim experienced actual combat and saw his brothers and comrades fall. This experience angered and confused Tim, and he was sick of always taking orders. His experience in Vietnam pushed Carter to search for a counterculture outlet. After much exploration, Carter settled on Peoples Temple because of their integration of everyone – all were equal. As Tim’s time in Peoples Temple progressed , he began to dislike Jim Jones more and more. As he stated , the last two years in the Temple, he hated Jim Jones. The only reason Carter stayed in was to support the people, his family. This is an asset he no doubt learned in the Marines. Carter was present in Jonestown during the final White Night and was one of very few people to walk out alive. He survived because Maria Katsaris gave him a suitcase full of money with orders to deliver it to the Russian Embassy. Tim was most likely trusted with this responsibility because he was close to Jones. However, this responsibility came at a price. Tim watched his wife and child die in his arms, and this memory has haunted him ever since.

I found Tim Carter’s talk to be extremely effective. He was real and emotional and completely drew his audience in. Tim’s story is also unique and very intriguing – especially about how he survived after the order for mass suicide was given. It is difficult to imagine the pain that Tim faced after the events of Jonestown. The day after the murder Carter returned to Jonestown to help identify bodies and saw many people with needle marks in their arms – showing clear evidence that they were murdered. I cannot even begin to imagine placing myself in Tim Carter’s position. I know that he faced a very rough patch once he returned to the States after Jonestown, and the fact that he has landed back on his feet and is able to talk openly about Jonestown just pays testimony to how much of a pillar of strength Tim Carter is.

Julia Scheeres

Julia Scheeres is the author of A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Jonestown. Julia stated that she did not begin to write a book on Peoples Temple initially. Originally Julia was writing a satire novel about a preacher from Indiana who takes over his community, when she remembered that Jim Jones was from Indiana. After researching Peoples Temple, Julia quickly decided to switch her novel over to an exploration of Peoples Temple, with a specific focus on the members of the Temple. Writing the book came easily from Julia because she shared a similar childhood to how many were treated in Jonestown. She was sent to a Christian Correctional school in the Dominican Republic as a young girl and led a very strict life. Julia feels that her experiences in the school parallel how Jones treated members of Peoples Temple, which helped her relate to the entire story.

In A Thousand Lives, Julia focused her book primarily on the ordinary members of the Temple. Julia chose the characters she wanted to highlight based on who she thought would tell interesting and unique stories of life in Jonestown. All of her characters had background stories from the United States, as well as narratives of life in Jonestown that were unique solely to them. For example, three of Julia’s main characters include a young delinquent, an elderly black woman, and a privileged white businesswoman. All had very unique roles in the Temple, and had very different experiences in Jonestown. In this way, Julia felt that she was able to humanize the people of the Temple. She also was able to do this by placing pictures of many of the victims in the first couple pages of her book. Julia presents all of her characters in a positive light, and really tried to emphasize that the final White Night was mass murder and not mass suicide.

Julia’s presentation was effective because of her inclusion of all of her personal narratives involved in writing this book. Her stories about her childhood background allowed us to see how closely she could relate to the events in Jonestown. Julia also spoke of her experience trying to interview members of Peoples Temple. Interestingly enough, Stephan Jones turned Julia down for an interview and did not want to be involved with the book. However, Julia was able to gain an interview with Tommy Bogue – one of her main characters, and from that was able to develop a very close friendship with him. Tommy’s story is unique because he was one of the troublemakers in Jonestown and one of the few to make it out alive. In her lecture Julia also spoke openly of her opinions of Jones and the Temple. She clearly dislikes Jones, but sympathizes with the members of the Temple, which is why she tried to portray them as humanely as possible. Julia’s experiences writing her book were easy to connect t o, which is why her lecture was intriguing and effective.

Stephan Jones

I went into the lecture given by Stephan Jones completely not knowing what to expect. Having read much literature on Jonestown, we were all aware of the experiences that Stephan had faced in the United States and Guyana. Stephan undoubtedly experienced events revolving around Peoples Temple and saw sides of Jim Jones that no one else in the world got the opportunity to. In some senses, Stephan knew Jim the best out of anyone. I also knew that Stephan very often turns down interviews – and as he even said in his talk, he turned down Oprah. Given this and the fact that he agreed to come speak with us at Bucknell, I had no clue what he would choose to talk about. As he was talking, Stephan struck me as a very relaxed and peaceful man who knows exactly who he is and what he believes in. Stephan read to us a piece of his own writing and then took questions, which he answered fully and honestly. Stephan’s presentation felt more like an open and genuine conversation rather than a lecture, which I imagine is exactly how he wanted it.

Stephan no doubt faced a childhood far different from any others. Many label his father as a psychotic maniac. But, as Stephan states, there was a genuine sweetness in him. In sermons when Stephan would see his father help the needy or disabled, he knew that hi s father actually did want to make a difference. He truly did care about his people. And sometimes he was able to say very inspirational things and lift up his entire community. However, despite this, Stephan says that he believes he went slightly crazed pretty early on. Part of the true, kind-hearted Jim Jones remained up until the very end – but the crazy part beat him out. Stephan stated that as a child, even though he despised Jim and attempted to look for inconsistencies in his beliefs, he did still take orders from him. He was always trying to please his father in an attempt to gain approval. To oppose his father, Stephan would have rage-filled exchanges with him, which in hindsight, he says were a mistake. Stephan now thinks that peaceful protests in which he voiced his opinion would have been more effective.

However, despite this, Stephan hates to dwell in the past. As a means of moving on, Stephan has developed a strong connection with a higher being and values his family over everything. Right after Jonestown, Stephan considered killing himself but did not do so in order to pay tribute to the fallen of Peoples Temple. I think having Stephan talk last was definitely the right move. I chose Stephan as one of my people to present on in the Jonestown responses because hi s actions in defying his father were extremely inspirational to me. I am impressed in particular of Stephan’s actions during the final White Night when he chose to call the United States to convince everyone there to not go ahead with the suicide. Stephan was able to act independently of his father and many members of Peoples Temple and retain his own moral viewpoints and philosophies. Stephan’s talk was so effective because of the conversation atmosphere that he created. He made everyone very comfortable with speaking and shared many of hi s personal feelings. Through this I was able to connect to Stephan and he remains as a shining light of inspiration out of the darkness that surrounds the events of Jonestown.

Originally posted on October 13th, 2013.

Last modified on October 15th, 2013.
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