The Transformation of Peoples Temple in California: From Pentecostal Church to Political Movement

by Rebecca Moore

(Rebecca Moore is a professor of Religious Studies at San Diego State University. She has written and published extensively on Peoples Temple and Jonestown (listed here), including numerous articles on this website, of which she is the co-manager.)

“California prophets, like its geraniums, grow large, rank, and garish.”
Carey McWilliams[i]

 

California has long provided an easy target for lampooning new and offbeat religions. It is “a paradise cut off from the world, where all is allowed and all is inspired by an obligatory model of ‘happiness’,” writes Eco. “Any promise of community life, of a ‘new deal,’ of regeneration is therefore good. It can come through jogging, satanic cults, new Christianities.”[ii] Naipaul relates his experiences at a New Earth Exposition in San Francisco even more caustically. “The tone, the vocabulary, were unmistakable. Interrelatedness. Human. Fragile balance. Life-style. The handout spoke in the unique accents of California.”[iii] Describing Los Angeles, but speaking of all California when he was writing forty years earlier, McWilliams identifies a “flair for the new and the untried—a tendency dismissed by all observers as ‘crackpotism,’ still another vagary of the climate, a by-product of the eternal sunshine.”[iv]

It was probably inevitable, therefore, that the deaths of more than 900 Americans in Jonestown, Guyana were often explained by pointing to Peoples Temple’s California provenance. Although the Temple was actually a transplant from the American Midwest, the California connection seemed to illuminate the murder-suicides in a South American jungle as plausibly as the rationalizations that looked to brainwashing, drugs, or insanity.

Yet attributing the phenomenon of Peoples Temple and the deaths in Jonestown to what A. Smith calls the “Only in California” explanation misses some key points about both California and the group. “The idea behind the ‘Only in California’ thesis,” he writes,

is the notion that California represents individualistic hedonism, a retreat from reality, a playground, or perhaps it is the insane ward; that out west a peculiar ethos of normlessness has emerged which puts certain groups and kinds of folk at high risk for all kinds of exploitative adventures.[v]

Smith argues that it would be a mistake to claim that Peoples Temple could only have emerged from California culture. He asserts that the Temple must be understood within the context of the twentieth century, “a product of a culture which attempts to repress and trivialize the essentially religious impulse.”[vi] In a word, Smith finds secularism the culprit: by contributing to individualistic and privatized understandings of religion, secularism robs people of a proper understanding of religion and its role.

If California is one of the most secular states in the union,[vii] and San Francisco the most secular American city,[viii] then perhaps there is something to the “Only in California” thesis. “No missionary to a pagan land…ever faced a more difficult call: to bring religion to the most profligate society America had yet produced, to cry forth Christ in a moral wilderness,” writes Starr of Gold Rush-era Protestant ministers.[ix] A mild climate, a tolerant religious attitude among the Californios (those residents of Mexican or Spanish descent), and an unmarried, male, enterprising population and an exploitative ethic all conspired against them. “There was no [religious] enthusiasm, no sectarianism, [and] little commitment to religious institutions” after statehood, according to Frankiel.[x] Despite the influx of pious Protestant Midwesterners in the early twentieth century, the legacy of secularism remained.

Further, an attitude of experimentation also seems to imbue the religious culture of the state. Even Smith admits that California

was the home of the Charles Manson Family; Aimee Semple McPherson, and her Four Square Gospel Church; Father William Riker’s church of the Perfect Christian Divine Way; the Zebra Murders; the Symbionese Liberation Army; Synanon; the Free Speech Movement; est.[xi]

McWilliams notes that the variety of new religious groups in Los Angeles in the 1920s was such that he could not keep up with them.[xii] Fiction certainly recognizes this diversity. The Dain Curse, a Dashiell Hammett mystery from 1929 that portrays a Holy Grail cult “naturally set in California—where else?” depicts a prophet, an impressive man, who

when he looked at you, you felt all confused. Then he went crazy and believed he could do and achieve anything.…He dreamed of convincing the whole world of his divinity.…He was a madman who would see no limit to his power.[xiii]

M. Jones identifies five fictional “prophets in Babylon” that appeared in novels written in the 1930s and set in California by authors ranging from Aldous Huxley to John Steinbeck. She says that these prophet-figures “preach a Marxist-Leninist utopia, a utopia of community and mutual support, a philosophic-anarchist utopia and a cooperative socialist utopia.”[xiv] We can see, therefore, a trajectory of prophecy, utopianism, cult and occultism, and toleration for all of it comprising the religious history of California.

While this paper does not argue that Peoples Temple could only have arisen in California, it does assert that Peoples Temple underwent a series of dramatic transformations in the Golden State. It went from being a small, isolated Christian church in the Pentecostal-Holiness tradition when it was based in Indianapolis, to becoming a secular political movement—even while maintaining a core of Christian worship in the Black Church tradition—when it made its home in California. The transformation to a completely secular utopian experiment was complete—even as it reverted to its isolationist foundations—when the group migrated to its agricultural project in Guyana. California, as opposed to Indiana, allowed the group to understand and identify itself in a radically new way. In other words, the religious and political climate of California helped to shape the Peoples Temple movement.

The essay begins by briefly recounting the history of Peoples Temple up to and including its tragic demise in Jonestown in 1978. It then examines four key moments in the group’s history: first, the transformation of Jim Jones from man of God to the God-Man; second, the development of a communal philosophy and practice; third, the expansion from Redwood Valley, California to San Francisco and Los Angeles to a more outwardly engaged, less inwardly-focused, movement; and fourth, the radicalization of the group in the San Francisco Bay Area. These moments dramatically altered the direction the organization took, giving the Temple the freedom and support to move away from traditional Christianity. And it was California’s legacy of religious toleration, spiritual experimentation, and political progressivism that enabled Peoples Temple to move in this new direction.

Peoples Temple and Jonestown

Peoples Temple was founded by James Warren Jones (1931-78), a charismatic preacher born and raised in Indiana. He and several lay leaders incorporated Wings of Deliverance, the parent of Peoples Temple, in 1955, basing the new corporation on the principles of biblical preaching and racial equality. The Disciples of Christ accepted Peoples Temple as a denominational member in 1960 and ordained Jones in 1964. Known for his commitment to integration, Jones was appointed director of the Indianapolis Human Rights Commission in February 1961. A thankless and dangerous post, Jones left it abruptly ten months later and moved his family to Hawaii, and then to Brazil for a two-year mission stint.

Upon his return to Indianapolis, Jones announced that he had received a vision of nuclear holocaust that destroyed Chicago in a burst of light visible from Indianapolis. The vision also showed him a large cave in which he had gathered his people to safety. Ross Case, one of Jones’ associate ministers who had shepherded the flock in his absence, says that a 1962 article in Esquire Magazine, which listed northern California as one of the safest places to be in case of nuclear war, may have contributed to Jones’ desire to re-locate. In any event, beginning in 1963 several church members moved to California, with the majority coming in the summer of 1965. All told, about one hundred people—half of them black and half of them white—made the move.[xv]

Once the church was established in Redwood Valley in rural northern California, members began actively proselytizing up and down the West Coast. Bus trips took people as far north as Seattle and as far south as Los Angeles. The group purchased a former Christian Science church building in 1972 at the corner of Alvarado and Hoover Streets in Los Angeles. Assistant pastors there met daily needs, while the group from Redwood Valley made the eight-hour trip for services in L.A. every other weekend on Temple-owned buses. Detailed instructions for bus “hostesses” itemize tasks, provide suggestions, and note cautions in making the biweekly trip.

ALCOHOL should be used each time before handling the food; if you have to scratch your face or head—clean your hands again. Whether or not there are germs, it will make the food more appetizing to your passengers if you take the sanitation measures.…

Whenever possible, our people should CLEAN up the places as they go—picking up trash as our friend always has us do. PLUS, THE EXERCISE IF NECESSARY for your passengers who have been sitting so long.

…Exercise your passengers every two hours during the day, and every four hours at night.…Have them stand and move about…[xvi]

The primary mission target, however, was San Francisco. As early as 1970, the church rented space for Sunday services at Benjamin Franklin Junior High School on Geary and Scott Streets. In 1972 it purchased the building at 1859 Geary and started holding services there. Over the next four years the group moved its headquarters from Redwood Valley to San Francisco. Peoples Temple was a high-profile church in San Francisco, hosting political events and service projects. It became known as the place to go if you wanted something done. In a tight electoral race, you could “forget it without Jones,” according to then-Speaker of the California Assembly Willie Brown.[xvii]

Even as the church expanded throughout California, it began making plans for a move abroad to create an agricultural mission when it initiated talks in 1974 with the government of Guyana to lease land in the nation’s jungle interior and obtained permission to start clearing the land. In 1976 it signed a formal agreement with the government to cultivate and occupy almost 4000 acres in the Northwest District of the country, near the Venezuelan border. Temple pioneers planted crops and built accommodations for the anticipated influx of settlers, but there was never quite enough food or shelter when 1000 immigrants arrived between 1977 and 1978. The place the pioneers had crafted was not meant to house so many people, especially not all at once. “Construction could not keep apace of the influx, and soon the available housing overflowed,” wrote Reiterman and Jacobs. “Because the kitchen was designed for the small pioneer crews, the new settlers had to endure long food lines…”[xviii]

Despite the hardships, however, the majority of newcomers enjoyed life in the jungle. “I’m settin’ around here free this morning,” 86-year-old Pop Jackson said of his life in Jonestown.

Now, when it comes to Jonestown, I’m telling you it was the best place what ever was. I had never been to a place like this. It ain’t been took up and dried up and you take the best and I take the worst. I want Jonestown to be cared for because it cared for me.[xix]

While everyone worked hard, there were also breaks, days off, and even entertainment at times—although some of the educational movies produced in the Soviet Union could hardly be called entertaining. The group viewed Hollywood movies as well, though they tended to be political in nature, including The Parallax View, Planet of the Apes, Catch-22, and Chinatown.[xx]

Pressure from oppositional groups, however, such as former members, hostile relatives, and critical journalists, began to create a climate of fear and paranoia within the Temple, starting in 1977. Antagonists provoked a number of governmental investigations of Peoples Temple, such as the U.S. Customs Service inspection of cargo destined for Guyana. Even though these probes did not find evidence of criminal activity, U.S. government actions which could have shut down the project—such as delaying Social Security checks to Jonestown, or revoking amateur radio licenses and thus crippling communications—contributed to a sense of doom felt by many in the community, especially in 1978. Responding to an “Accusation of Human Rights Violations” publicized by concerned family members in April 1978, several Jonestown residents declared that they would rather die than be harassed from continent to continent. Then in June 1978, a high-ranking defector reported that suicide drills had occurred in Jonestown.

Critical news reports and lobbying by constituents persuaded California Congressman Leo J. Ryan to travel to Jonestown to investigate conditions there. He arrived in Guyana with a group of people that Jonestown residents considered to be their enemies. The group included reporters who had written unfavorable accounts, parties to a bitter child custody case, and people who had threatened to kidnap their relatives from Jonestown. Although initially opposed to letting the visitors in, the Jonestown leadership relented, and the congressional delegation received a warm welcome.

During the course of the visit on 17 November 1978, however, someone handed a note to a reporter asking the congressman for assistance in leaving Jonestown. The next day, about sixteen people expressed their desire to leave Jonestown. Ryan and his group arranged for transportation from Jonestown to the nearest airport—a landing strip in Port Kaituma six miles from Jonestown—and scheduled a second plane to come to take the extra persons back to Georgetown, the nation’s capital. Just as some people were boarding one of the planes, a group of gunmen from Jonestown arrived in a flatbed truck. They jumped off the truck and opened fire upon Ryan and his party. The congressman, three newsmen, and a defecting Jonestown resident were shot and killed. Others were severely wounded.

Back in Jonestown in the late afternoon of 18 November, Jones assembled all the residents in the central pavilion. There they were exhorted to drink a poison-laced punch. While a few appeared to argue against this, they were shouted down by others in the group. Babies and children received the poison first. When it was clear that this was not a drill—but that people were actually dying—parents then accompanied their children in death. Senior citizens, found lying in their own beds, were injected with poison.

There are various opinions about the nature of the final act, and as to whether or not people were murdered or drank the poison voluntarily.[xxi] Regardless of one’s view about the rest of it, it seems clear that more than 270 children were murdered. Although there are reports of men with crossbows being present, these same individuals also took the poison, and were found lying on top of their weapons. Only seven people survived. Everyone else, including Jones and the rest of the Jonestown leadership, died. And the world outside of California heard about Peoples Temple for the first time.

The First Moment: From Human to Divine

Indianapolis in the 1950s was as segregated as any Southern city, and this especially included the churches on Sunday morning. Jones began his ministerial career serving as a student pastor in a Methodist Church in 1952.[xxii] In 1954 he was asked to preach a number of times at the Laurel Street Tabernacle, an all-white Assembly of God congregation. Jones invited African Americans to attend the Tabernacle, but when church ushers seated them in the back rows, he protested. The church administrative board encouraged him to open another church, for blacks only. Instead, Jones walked out and founded his own church—Community Unity Church—on Hoyt and Randolph Streets. When that small interracial church was enlarged by white members who left the Laurel Street Tabernacle to follow Jones, the congregation moved again, and Peoples Temple opened its doors at a new location at 15th and New Jersey in Indianapolis.

During its years in Indiana, Peoples Temple was in most respects a Pentecostal church. The message and ministry appealed to working class whites and African Americans. Hearkening back to the original American Pentecostal tradition—before Pentecostalism fractured along racial lines in 1914—Peoples Temple featured a racially-mixed congregation speaking in tongues. Services were lively and energetic, with healings, a biblical message, impassioned sermons, and plenty of music. Jack Beam, a long-time member who had left Laurel Tabernacle for Community Unity Church, said that Jones “would wrap it up in such a way that you had to look at it. Then he’d heal your ass. And it was the Word accompanied by signs and wonders, which was their scripture; they couldn’t get away from it.”[xxiii]

A typical sermon from the Indianapolis days, taped for radio broadcast, shows Jones preaching about Pentecost and Pentecostalism. He begins by asking people to turn to Acts 2:38, the key passage for Pentecostal Christians because it describes the gift of the Holy Spirit.

If you are to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit you too must be self-giving. You must lose your life and find it in Christ. There’s a great spirit of self-sacrifice that little is known about in the church today. And I would like for just a few minutes to explore the power of Pentecost. [xxiv]

Later in the sermon he criticizes “Pentecostal people” for going off center:

They’ve lost the center of the fruits of the Spirit, they’ve lost the center of the dynamics of the Spirit, and they’re [unintelligible] down into the paraphernalia. They’re on the out margin. They’ll have the scaffolding and the structure, but they lack the meat of the gospel. They’ve got a few tongues, and that’ll never chase devils, though, honey.…And that’s what the trouble with Pentecostal people is, and I want to say this, and I say it with all sincerity: God is leaving them as a people.

In other words, Jones critiques Pentecostal believers whose Christianity was limited to going to church, but did not extend into society at large. He goes on to talk about Communism as a challenge to God’s people, with “its own Bible—dialectic materialism—and its own Messiah—Karl Marx—and its own prophets—like [then-Soviet premier Nikita] Khrushchev.” He claims that he could see all of the miraculous scientific developments that were occurring behind the Iron Curtain, and he notes that Communism was drawing more adherents than Pentecostalism was.

“At their essence, the worship services at Peoples Temple were constructed around the model of the emotionally expressive Pentecostal tradition,” observes Harrison.[xxv] He identifies a number of these elements, from the call-and-response style of Jones’ preaching, to the inclusion of the organ as a way to carry the congregation to an emotional climax. Moreover, “Jones himself shaped the interpretation offered of the tongues in several ways,” correcting individuals’ language and explicating the message.[xxvi]

Hall says that Jones radicalized Pentecostalism in two ways, however, first, by proclaiming his own divinity and (potentially) that of his followers, and second, by “pushing the ‘holy rollers’ out of their own matrix, ostensibly by carrying their legacy to its own (Christian) communalist conclusions.”[xxvii] Neither of these developments occurred in the 1950s or 1960s in Indianapolis, but the seeds were planted there.

Jones was still human in Indianapolis. In the sermon cited above, he criticizes Father Divine’s Peace Mission “with their false worship of a person, [and] with their deification of a man.”[xxviii] Yet Jones’ repeated visits to the Peace Mission in Philadelphia impressed him. They triggered his own request that his congregation call him “Father,” as Divine’s followers called their leader. Jones continued to send the Peace Mission tapes of his sermons, even after they asked him to stop. After Divine’s death, Jones attempted to take over leadership of the Peace Mission, a move that Mother Divine successfully resisted in 1971. Even though his overtures were rejected, Jones continued to approach the Peace Mission, and in 1972 he sent flyers to Philadelphia specifically inviting members to join the Temple when the group made its cross-country bus trip in the summer. Several elderly members took him up on his offer.

The deification of the beloved pastor as a new incarnation seemed to have occurred after Jones’ return from his two years in Brazil, and coincided with his vision of nuclear holocaust. Enough people believed in his prophetic ability to pack up and move: Jack Beam and his family in 1963, Rick Cordell and his family in 1964, and Ross Case, who moved to Ukiah in 1964 as well. Jones, Case, and Beam scouted a number of possible locations for resettlement before deciding on Ukiah, a small town in the redwood country of northern California. About one hundred people moved from Indianapolis in 1965.

Jones’ prophecy of nuclear disaster, and his exhortation to relocate, required these families to make a major decision: they would have to accept him not just as pastor, but also as prophet. This transformation is revealed in letters from Harold Cordell Jr. and Ross Case. Harold was Rick’s older brother, and had been instrumental in getting his younger brother to join the church. A letter from Harold dated 18 February 1965 asserts that, although the Bible contained fabrications, God was speaking through Jim Jones today. “He is a prophet of the first degree whose prophecies always come true to the minute detail.”[xxix] It is clear that the nuclear holocaust prediction dramatically altered people’s perception of Jones. “God has shown our beloved prophet the nuclear devastation which this area will face soon if steps to peace are not undertaken very soon.” Cordell adds, “James Jones is certainly a deliverer and the same Anointed Spirit or Christ spirit that we know resided in Jesus.…[He is] one of the greatest prophets and messengers that have ever appeared on this earth.” The letter then asks Case about finding work in California.

Ross Case’ “Dear James” letter of 3 March 1965 indicates both the shift that had occurred in the leadership of the Temple, and his own discomfort with that change.

When Archie [Ijames] was here, I discussed with him Harold Cordell’s letter. Archie said, “Brother Case, in the past we have believed in respecting each other’s differences of opinion. We can’t do that anymore. If we have these differences we are bound to speak them. For myself, I have come to the position that I must submit my mind completely to the mind of Jimmy.” …After I had reaffirmed my faith in Jesus Christ, Archie also said (again no exact quotes), “Brother Case, you know why we’re having this talk, don’t you?” I replied in some indirect manner as “No, what do you have in mind?” He stated, “We would not want you to work with us with your beliefs, and I’m sure you would not want to work with us with our beliefs.”[xxx]

Case’ handwritten draft states that he would “submit my mind to Jesus, but to no mere mortal.” He expresses a willingness to work with Jones on human service projects “as a friend,” but that “I will not work on a religious basis under any circumstances where I cannot work in the name of Jesus for his glory.” Not only does Case’ letter mark the end of his relationship with Peoples Temple, it also marks the shift that had occurred in people’s attitudes towards Jim Jones. No longer was he mere mortal. In California, he would begin as a prophet, God’s newly-anointed one.

The Second Moment: From Church to Commune

The second way Jones radicalized Pentecostalism, according to Hall, was his exhortation to practice the Christian communism of Acts 2:44-45 and 4:32: in Jones’ words, “apostolic socialism.” This occurred after the move to California with the commencement of a communal lifestyle. In Ukiah and nearby Redwood Valley, the Temple sought self-sufficiency as much as possible. It operated state-licensed care facilities for the elderly and the mentally challenged. It raised its own produce. Members who worked on non-Temple enterprises—for the Mendocino County Welfare Office, for example—also lived communally. Hyacinth Thrash, one of the few survivors of the deaths in Jonestown, describes the life she and her sister Zipporah Edwards, or Zip, had in Redwood Valley. They bought a care home from retirees who had taken patients evicted from Mendocino State Hospital when Governor Ronald Reagan shut down California’s mental hospitals.

We bought a lovely four-bedroom ranch house on one and a quarter acres of land and took in four lovely ladies as “care” patients. I was just crazy ‘bout our home.…We loved it in the Valley. We had our own grape arbor by the house. And pears! Zip and I put up 150 quarts of pear stuff.…And we canned peaches, pretty as a picture. We even made zucchini pickles.…And corn! We canned corn and froze corn. Got so we never even cold-packed string beans anymore. We just froze them in plastic bags.…We had tomatoes too, and made our own chili sauce.[xxxi]

As early as 1959 Jones preached a sermon calling upon his people to sell what they had “and give it to the corporate community of our church.”[xxxii] Peoples Temple in Indianapolis had operated a restaurant to serve poor people at no charge. It also ran a care facility for the elderly. “We’re asking people to give as God blesses them. No charge for anything because God is free and everything he has is free. It’s been provided.” Although the congregation was willing to support a restaurant and meal service, it was not yet ready for communal living. The group had not “gone communal” as it would in California.

In addition to Jones’ own interest in communism—both Christian and Marxist—some of the emphasis on communalism came from the Temple’s association with Christ’s Church of the Golden Rule (CCGR), a communal religious group with several ranches and businesses located near Willits, California, about 25 miles north of Ukiah.[xxxiii] CCGR incorporated in 1944, and after facing bankruptcy and disintegration due to lawsuits filed by former members and the California attorney general in the 1950s, reorganized itself in the 1960s in Mendocino County. “All resident members of the church live communally,” according to Melton. “No property or income can inure to any individual and all is used for the benefit of the church.”[xxxiv]

A number of members of CCGR joined Peoples Temple, including Carol Stahl, who grew up in the organization. She lived at Ridgewood Ranch, one of CCGR’s communal properties, from 1963 to 1968, worked in the church-owned restaurant and motel, and served on the Board of Elders of CCGR. “All my life I had grown up hearing that some day there would be other groups that we would merge with and work with,” she writes in a three-page biographical statement.[xxxv]

When I met Jim Jones in 1965, he and few people came to visit one of our meetings at Ridgewood Ranch, where we shared a few ideas. The Golden Rule had a large property, about 16,000 acres that would have been very well put to use.…Jim had tried to worship with various churches in the Ukiah-Redwood Valley area and he had been turned down by all of them because of the fact that they were an integrated church.

The CCGR elders agreed to worship cooperatively with members of Peoples Temple. This worked for about three years, and a merger between the two groups was finally discussed. Things came to a head with Stahl’s engagement to a Temple member, however, and she was forced to choose between the CCGR and the Temple. At that point, Jim Jones and several Temple members staged a walkout, returned to remove their organ from the church, and never went back.[xxxvi]

After the eviction, or walkout, from Ridgewood Ranch, according to Rheaviana Beam, the group met in Jones’ garage, and then outside the home of some other members while a church building was erected in Redwood Valley, a small town outside of Ukiah. “February 2, 1969 we moved into the current Peoples Temple for the first meeting.”[xxxvii] Despite the parting of the ways, CCGR clearly influenced the Temple in its effort to “go communal.” In addition to constructing a church building, the Temple established its own print shop, laundry, the group homes noted by Hyacinth Thrash, and agricultural projects, both farming and ranching. Members also helped each other find employment, get off welfare, or obtain the welfare benefits to which they were entitled. Stahl states that Peoples Temple was known in Ukiah and Redwood Valley for getting people off of welfare, and picking up the expenses, such as “medical care, dental care, eye examinations, even if a family could not afford it.”[xxxviii]

A sermon Jones preached in Redwood Valley in 1973 indicates the depth of the communalist commitment.

I do not believe in private ownership of property. I believe that all property should be held in common. Just like this church belongs to all of us. Just like the lands out here, the fruit, everything is shared by all of us.[xxxix]

Most importantly, perhaps, Jim Jones “began to break down the fundamentalist religion,” says Stahl. “He pointed out that this type of religion was the backbone of all the racism, poverty and inequality that existed. It kept people content with their misery. You know: ‘religion is the opiate of the people.’ He made people feel responsible for the injustice around them, and responsible for doing something to change it.”[xl] Clearly racism was a major form of injustice addressed by Jones and Temple members. The group had introduced African Americans into the predominantly white community of Ukiah, and racial incidents resulted. These events prompted the interracial group to look beyond rural northern California—historically quite conservative—to more progressive climates.

The Third Move: From Rural and Inward, to Urban and Outward

Hine notes that one of the hallmarks of utopias is their withdrawal from society. “The concept of withdrawal, an important element in the definition, eliminates those organizations which through co-operative effort seek to transform society by working from within: consumers’ and self-help co-operatives, factory profit-sharing leagues, or even labor unions.”[xli] Rather than working as outsiders, these latter efforts reflect a belief in slow and steady progress by working within the system. “For any utopia, religious or secular, politics provided no springboard for reform; by his withdrawal from society he tacitly admitted the impossibility of reformation by conventional legislative means.”[xlii]

California’s agrarian setting served as the initial locus of withdrawal. M. Jones writes that “the California rural/agricultural setting is, it seems, to some extent idealized as possessing, in its ‘organic’ naturalness, a power to heal and transform human society that the ‘artificial’ urban world lacks.”[xliii] She observes that in the novels she studied, the characters are quickly disillusioned by their experiences in the Golden State when they encounter the official policy of town governments.[xliv] In a similar way, racial incidents reminded Temple members that their withdrawal was not total: they still had children who went to school every day, and they still had jobs in a segregated workplace. The group celebrated, therefore, when the local Masonite factory hired its first African American employee—a member of the church.

The group’s emigration from the relative hurly-burly of Indianapolis to the isolation of rural northern California functioned as a rehearsal for the more complete withdrawal to the jungles of Guyana. The retreat to Redwood Valley was only temporary. The period from 1969, when the “mother church” opened, to 1976, when the Temple’s headquarters officially transferred to San Francisco, served as a transitional time of self-definition. Peoples Temple’s external message, and especially its internal message to members, became less religious and more secular. Inside the group, the rhetoric grew explicitly socialist, although members continued to present a Christian front to the community. Redwood Valley was too narrow and too small for the aims and aspirations of the Temple. Momentum and power shifted to San Francisco, and the message and mood of the movement shifted as well. If the move to Ukiah represented a step toward a utopian social structure, the drive toward the San Francisco Bay Area indicated a step back to a more reformist worldview.

Outwardly the church in San Francisco still appeared to be a church in the Pentecostal tradition. A series of mimeographed flyers distributed by the group from 1971-73 reveals a couple of important emerging themes. First, the flyers emphasize healings. On 30 October 1971, “Mrs. Etta Nixon, 1622 Ingalls, was literally raised from the dead.”[xlv] Accounts of other resuscitations fill the mimeos, and one even claims that no deaths had occurred since members joined the Temple. Mrs. Enliss Robinson of 591 Waller Street was cured of cancer at one service, and Mrs. Christine Lewis of Burlingame, California “was instantly healed of a paralytic stroke which had left her left side and leg severely incapacitated.” Although these healings may have been fraudulent, the fact that they are promoted indicates the group’s target audience remained those in need of miracles. Moreover, handwritten testimonials by elderly members reveal a sincerity lacking from more polished accounts.

Second, the mimeos depict Jim Jones as a prophet, and more. “Please read every word for this letter contains many vital messages and prophecies, warnings, and a special message from this unique God-sent prophet, Jim Jones.” One mimeo calls him Divine Compassion: “This Divine Compassion gives precise revelations that no man could possibly know, often of events that took place many years in the past or that are currently taking place many miles from the meeting.” Jones apparently predicted the death of a Rev. Allen, who died of acute alcoholism. He also warns prophetically that “we might be the first ones to go Fascist ‘Hitlerite or Stalinist’ by the democratic vote.” His prophetic ability is “God’s Divine Power revealed,” as another newsletter states, paraphrasing and yet proclaiming “Behold, the Word made incarnate is in your midst.”

A third element present in the mimeo flyers is the link between the message and ministry of Peoples Temple and the Christian social gospel. One newsletter states that one must share the beliefs of the Temple.

If a person doesn’t believe in racial justice or total equality, he shouldn’t attend our services. Pastor Jones’ Christian teachings make Christ relevant to social issues. The deeper truths brought out about the Bible must be understood if you are to be a partaker and keeper of the glorious manifestations of healing and prophetic power never equaled in our time.

Another asserts that “thousands have been moved by Pastor Jones’ message of Apostolic Equality,” while yet another asks people to send money not for healings but for service. In addition to the special revelations given at meetings, the services are “an opportunity to learn of the beautiful concepts of apostolic social justice.” In a “Message from the Prophet” titled “Who are the Real Radicals,” Jones states that the real radical is not someone who engages in violence for social justice. “No, the real radical is one who is engaged in a determined struggle to break out of the vicious cycle of violence that is a part of our everyday life.…A Christian radical attempts to transform society not by hate, animosity and fear…but by a positive activism, protest and dissent and non-violent participation in the electoral process.”

A final element of the newsletters—and of the overall project of Peoples Temple at that time—is the reinterpretation of scripture. One of the Prophet’s “Messages” clarifies some of deeper biblical truths, by saying that Jesus’ sacrificial death proves his heroism, “but no more does away with man’s sin than a school boy volunteering to be flogged for another would eliminate the negligence or irresponsibility of the other student.” The Message goes on to analyze Isaiah 7:14, which states that a virgin shall conceive, and what that prophecy would have meant historically to the Israelites. Another notes that back issues of “Jim Jones’ outstanding sermons on reincarnation, power of positive thinking, and errors in the King James of England’s translation,” are available on request.

The Temple Reporter, which came out of Redwood Valley in summer 1973, was a step up from the mimeographed sheets. This was the precursor to the Peoples Forum, first published in 1976 out of San Francisco. The Reporter, an eight-page tabloid, was “published as a community service by Peoples Temple Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), as part of its mission to help bring about God’s Kingdom ‘on Earth’ and the American dream of ‘Freedom and Justice for All.’”[xlvi] In addition to running stories of human interest about Peoples Temple members and those in Mendocino County, the Reporter prints the Bill of Rights and a discussion of the Magna Carta (p. 7), and contains a number of stories about Jim Jones, including a tribute, and a photo of Jones’ family.[xlvii] The paper does not discuss healing, although it does print the Peoples Temple biblical by-words from Matthew 25: 35-36: “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat. I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink. I was a stranger, and ye took me in. Naked, and ye clothed me. I was sick, and ye visited me. I was in prison, and ye came unto me” (King James Version).

Perhaps the clearest insight into the internal and external dynamics at work in the move to an explicitly socialist position appears in a little publication titled The Living Word: An Apostolic Monthly, which premiered in July 1972, and a commentary on it published in 2005 by its first editor, Garrett Lambrev. The first issue, a 5 ½ x 8 ½ booklet featuring Jim Jones on the cover, is filled with accounts of healings and miracles, all attributed to Jones. An article by S. D. Peter, an evangelist who joined the Temple, lauds Jones by saying that “the Principle of Christ was renewed in him. Pastor Jones has come to personify this Infinite, Spirit and Mind that was in Christ Jesus.”[xlviii] A sermon by Jones says more or less the same thing: “Our God, our dear Savior, the Mind of Christ is here in all its power.…I have built on this ideal and, thus, have made Christ real to those who are ready for the Sonship ministry. I have come to demonstrate to you that God can abide in these temples of clay.” The sermon concludes by quoting scripture that says “It is written Ye are Gods!” At the same time, the booklet also proclaims that “brotherhood is our religion,” and features a drawing of black and white hands gently planting a young sprout. The accompanying article—written by Lambrev in flowery, scriptural language—praises Jones and the apostolic ministry of Peoples Temple.

Lambrev’s 2005 commentary reveals the not-so-religious dynamics that went into production of The Living Word, however. “The Living Word and Me: The Limits of Anarchism in Peoples Temple” discusses the editorial process:

There would be no mention anywhere in the text—certainly nothing explicit—about Marxism-Leninism. In fact, much to my disappointment and that of the staff I had appointed, there was to be no overt political content whatsoever. As a writer, I would confine myself to generalities about our good works, and reinforce them with ample biblical quotations, preferably lifted from the New Testament.[xlix]

Jones chose the title, according to Lambrev, because of his belief that people sought a God-in-the-Body rather than a Sky God, or biblical god. He also wanted the Christian communism described in Acts to be communicated in the first issue. “Finally he wanted us to find biblical grounds for acceptance of the law of karma—and its consequence, reincarnation.” In his position as editor, Lambrev had to quash the political writings of his staff, and fill the journal instead with faith, healings, and miracles: accounts of which they ghost-wrote for others.

The time was soon coming, however, when radical rhetoric would outstrip religious. Already within the Temple, a radical core was forming. It grew to such an extent that in 1973 a group of eight young adults formally left the church because it was insufficiently revolutionary, in their view. The financial donations to jailed reporters, the families of slain policemen, and pet rescue shelters eventually went to support more radical causes, such as the occupation of Alcatraz Island by Native Americans. The move to San Francisco from Redwood Valley was also a move to overtly radical politics. In the Bay Area the church would sponsor or host more political speakers, and take on a more political cast, becoming a power-broker in San Francisco, and even national, politics.

The Fourth Move: From Liberal to Radical

Although the Temple bought its San Francisco church building in 1972, it took several more years for it to become a significant player in local politics, or, in the words of Naipaul, “the most glorious phase of its career.”[l] From 1972 to 1975 members continued to commute between services in Redwood Valley, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Redwood Valley continued to serve as the home office. But members began moving to San Francisco, and many of the Redwood Valley transplants lived communally in the city. Carlton Goodlett, publisher of the Sun-Reporter, the Bay Area’s African American newspaper, says that Jones was following Father Divine’s example of encouraging communal living.[li] Church records show that at least 600 members were living in communal apartments by 1977, including units within the Geary Street facility.

It is clear that the group focused on human service ministries rather than social justice or political action at this time. “Peoples Temple mainly addressed issues of drug rehabilitation, medical care, child care, and feeding the hungry, all of which bolstered its standing as an organization committed to meeting the immediate needs of an impoverished community in what the Temple termed ‘the ghetto’.”[lii] The Temple provided a number of health services to senior citizens, and helped with members’, and non-members’, legal problems.

Numerous files housed at the California Historical Society attest to the Temple’s concrete help to people in need. Letters to Pastor Jim make requests for money and legal assistance, help in fighting evictions, and support in gaining welfare benefits.[liii] Temple lawyers responded with letters to a probation officer, a warden, or family member whose relatives were in prison. One item indicates a welcome-home group gathered to greet a member being released from prison. A Temple member in Los Angeles sent a news clipping to Jones with a note attached: “Enclosed is the story of a woman who needs your help. It seems to me justice should be done.” The story described a mentally ill woman in poor health who faced further incarceration. Temple lawyer Gene Chaikin followed up with a letter to the woman. Another item lists the members of Peoples Temple who agreed to show up at the trial of a member’s son, with a notation of those who actually went and an account of the reasons some people failed to show up.

The watershed for the Temple, according to Reiterman and Jacobs, was the 1975 mayoral race between liberal George Moscone and conservative John Barbagelata. During the planning stages of the Moscone campaign, “someone suggested that [California Assemblyman Willie] Brown line up Peoples Temple volunteers. Soon the Temple was being bandied about as one of the community groups needed to pull together a winning liberal coalition.”[liv] While Temple members probably provided “no more than a few hundred voters,”[lv] their volunteer effort to get out the vote apparently succeeded. Moscone won, and San Franciscans believed that Peoples Temple made the difference.

The election shifted the focus outward, from human services to political action. Human needs continued to be met in hundreds of small, but significant, ways that could dramatically change people’s lives, mirroring what the Black Panther Party called “survival programs” which “contributed to the well-being of poor and working-class racial and ethnic minorities.”[lvi] But the political arena offered a new, and public, platform for Jones and the group to espouse their increasingly progressive views. During the 1976 presidential campaign, for example, Rosalyn Carter, wife of candidate Jimmy Carter, visited with Jim Jones after hundreds of Temple members appeared at a Democratic Party rally. Jones was appointed to the San Francisco Housing Commission, first as a member, then as its chair. The January 1977 Martin Luther King Day celebration was held at Peoples Temple with a battery of Democratic political heavyweights.

In addition to participating in Democratic events, however, the Temple engaged in more radical political activities. The 1976 African Liberation Day celebration at Peoples Temple featured officials from Tanzania and the People’s Republic of Angola, and from liberation movements in southern Africa, such as the Zimbabwe African National Union and South Africa’s Pan African Congress. Temple members showed up at rallies in support of the Wilmington 10, the Camp Pendleton Four, and other defendants in racially-motivated prosecutions. A handwritten calendar lists all of the events Temple members planned to attend or support.[lvii] The causes ranged from protesting the Bakke decision (in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that affirmative action is unconstitutional) to circulating petitions to free South Africa’s Nelson Mandela. A listing of the events shows the extent of community activism the group promoted:

Bakke Decision, “will send info; we are endorsing”

Hot Pursuit, Hall of Justice, August 17

Cal. Coalition Ag[ainst] Death Penalty, August 23

Nelson Mandela Petitions

Ben Chavis’ [of Wilmington 10 fame] sister, August 26

Meeropol [Ethel and Julius Rosenberg’s son], SF Jewish Community Center, Thursday

San Quentin, August 21

Gay Rights Rally, August 20 (?)

Amicus Brief and Hearing, August 29 (FEPC should protect gays)

And this is just a partial list, since it goes on for two pages. Meetings were held with representatives of the Chilean consulate to protest the repressive Pinochet regime. Political fundraisers, a reception for Andrew Young, a meeting for American Indian Solidarity, and more were on the schedule. It is no wonder that Peoples Temple became the church that radicals turned to in those years.

One set of papers developed by a Temple member analyzed Tom Hayden, one of the Chicago Seven and a candidate for the U.S. Senate in the 1976 Democratic primary. The analyses describe his stands on various issues (“Abolish CIA”), and the elements of his “Economic Bill of Rights,” and include a complete collection of Hayden’s position papers on various issues. Although the Temple member who typed up the analysis seriously doubts “that Hayden considers himself a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary,” he, or she, does feel that Hayden should get the support of Peoples Temple. “He might still have the illusion that electoral politics can solve basic social issues, but he is the best thing I’ve seen running for office in a while.”[lviii]

Still more radical, perhaps, was the Temple’s cooperation with the Nation of Islam (NOI). An article in the Bilalian News from March 1976 notes the church’s support for Minister Nathaniel Muhammad—brother of NOI’s leader W. D. Muhammad—who was accused of drug trafficking.[lix] The next month a joint worship service was held in San Francisco between the Nation of Islam and Peoples Temple, while the Los Angeles Temple also met with the mosque in Southern California and held a rally in May with Chief Minister Wallace D. Muhammad. And that fall, Jones and Nathaniel Muhammad held an inter-faith rally in Kansas City.

The best demonstration of the shift from liberal to progressive to radical appears in the pages of Peoples Forum, the Temple’s newspaper, which started as a four-page newsletter in 1976 and expanded into a four-page newsprint tabloid by early 1977. Early issues carry articles on subjects as diverse as killer bees, Muhammad Ali, freedom of the press, and Jim Jones hosting a TV show. An editorial from an issue in May 1976 asks:

Are you an activist yourself? Do you believe in the practical approach to resolving human problems? Do you have any spare time or energy? Is there anything you can or would like to do to help out? If you want to put your resources into something that gets results or simply want to become part of a warmly integrated community dedicated to human service, call.[lx]

The cover stories in the September 1976 issue describe a miracle experienced by Jack Beam—and predicted by Jim Jones—and report on a high school class experiment on regimentation. The November issue includes an ad promoting “spiritual healing,” as well as an open letter from Mayor George Moscone.

By the end of the year, Peoples Forum had gone tabloid size, and page one of the new format features articles on Chilean torture, California Nazis, the FBI’s role in the death of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton, the CIA’s role in the Kennedy assassination, and operations of the Korean CIA in Los Angeles.[lxi] A March 1977 issue has a cover photo of Jim Jones shaking hands with Panther leader Huey Newton. There is a page one story on Zimbabwe, Nazis, and the problem of child abuse. It is not until page four that church and community notes appear.

One of the first published references to Guyana is an ad in an October 1976 issue, which solicits donations for an agricultural project, without mentioning where it is. But an April 1977 issue has a front-page story, headlined “Agricultural Mission Offers New Hope for 23 Young Urban ‘Incorrigibles’.”[lxii] The same issue includes an article titled “Cuba’s Socialism Works,” as well as articles on Nazis in the United States, the slaughter of baby seals, and nuclear pollution. Page three displays an inside look at Peoples Temple, with a discussion of spiritual healing and medical science. Articles grow more and more overtly political, covering “Guyana’s Cooperative Socialism,” or noting on-going harassment of black elected officials. The October 1977 issue, includes an ad for the Huey Newton Defense Fund.

The engaged, radical reformist era of Peoples Temple ended abruptly in 1977. An IRS investigation threatened the church’s tax-exempt status.[lxiii] Negative publicity from former members also raised questions about the organization and what occurred behind the Temple’s closely guarded doors. Even so, the Temple’s political allies remained steadfast, refusing to abandon what had become an institution in San Francisco politics. Temple members carefully compiled supportive statements from letters the group had received from various dignitaries and began publishing them in July 1977. Comments came from the lieutenant governor of California, the director of the San Francisco Council of Churches, the president of the San Francisco NAACP, the majority whip for the California State Legislature, and many others.

The group had prepared for another withdrawal into utopian communalism with the cultivation of land in Guyana. Even though Temple members remained active in local political events that fall, and it centers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Redwood Valley continued to operate, the period of engagement was largely over. The emigration from the Bay Area began in spring 1977 and continued through the summer and fall. The manpower necessary for direct political action had vanished.

Conclusions

It is hard to imagine the celebration of African Liberation Day in Indianapolis, and equally impossible to envision support for Huey Newton emerging from Redwood Valley. It seems apparent that California radicalized Peoples Temple, or at the very least, provided an environment in which the movement could enlarge its mission on a global scale. Certainly the progressive atmosphere of the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s nurtured and sustained the Temple’s engagement in liberal, and eventually radical, politics.

Harris and Waterman locate the American political activism of that era within the context of the shift from post-colonial reaction to neo-colonial enterprises, noting “greater black participation in new political spheres.”[lxiv] California offered the best stage upon which Peoples Temple could engage in political action.

Beyond simply moving to the center of black political activity in the U.S., the relocation of Peoples Temple across the plains also signaled its entrance into a broader coalition of leftist organizations and a new level of visibility in the image-conscious California political milieu.[lxv]

This happened not with the move to Redwood Valley, of course, but with the expansion to San Francisco.

Ironically, the activism of Peoples Temple was limited by its leadership, and especially Jim Jones. Despite the unusual degree of access Jones had to both white and black power brokers in the Bay Area, he and the group squandered the opportunities they had by focusing on the prophet rather than on the prophetic message. Harris and Waterman call Jones “an obscure socialist thinker, blending elements of atheism, Christianity, Marxism, Leninism, Maoism, and Third World revolutionary rhetoric into a complicated brew of political sentiments.”[lxvi] J. Smith contrasts the deep roots of the black church within the community, with the shallow roots of Peoples Temple, based as they were in a single individual.[lxvii]

In spite of these limitations, Peoples Temple changed as a result of its contact with the California culture of religious toleration, progressive politics, and metaphysical healing. The group changed in the Golden State, going from a small Pentecostal church to becoming a communal religious movement with a charismatic prophet who was the new incarnation of God. Its programs and politics were radicalized in its contact with progressives in the Bay Area in ways hard to imagine from its humble beginnings.

According to Hall, Peoples Temple “channeled a distinctive confluence of its historical moment—of Left politics aligned with interracial communalism, wrapped within an organization that was unusual in its capacity to infuse countercultural discourse with a radicalized religiosity.”[lxviii] He sees the demise of the Temple as marking an “epochal shift,” from the leftist counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s, to the rightist “morning in America” of Ronald Reagan and Reaganism. In his words: “After Jonestown, the neo-conservative revolution.”[lxix]

What might have happened if Peoples Temple had remained in California, and had not withdrawn to its secular utopia in Guyana? Would it have been destroyed by repressive police actions, as happened to the Black Panther Party? Or would San Francisco, and California, and the rest of the nation been able to sustain a viable New Left vision? The deaths in Jonestown effectively decimated a corps of progressive black leadership in California. More profoundly, they discredited leftist politics throughout the nation. Jonestown took down not just its believers, but their beliefs as well.

Special thanks go to Fielding M. McGehee III of the Jonestown Institute and Denice Stephenson of the California Historical Society for their help with this article.

ENDNOTES

[i] Carey McWilliams, “Mecca of the Miraculous,” in Fool’s Paradise: A Carey McWilliams Reader (Santa Clara and Berkeley: Santa Clara University and Heyday Books, 2001), 17.

[ii] Umberto Eco, “The Suicides of the Temple,” in West of the West: Imagining California, ed. Leonard Michaels, David Reid, Raquel Scherr (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1989), 315.

[iii] Shiva Naipaul, Journey to Nowhere: A New World Tragedy (New York: Penguin Books, 1980), 187.

[iv] McWilliams, “The Politics of Utopia,” in McWilliams, Fool’s Paradise, 43.

[v] Archie Smith, Jr., “An Interpretation of Peoples Temple and Jonestown: Implications for the Black Church,” in Peoples Temple and Black Religion in America, ed. Rebecca Moore, Anthony B. Pinn, and Mary R. Sawyer (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004), 49. See also A. Smith, The Relational Self: Ethics and Therapy from a Black Church Perspective (Nashville: Abingdon, 1982), 205-7.

[vi] A. Smith, “An Interpretation of Peoples Temple,” 49.

[vii] Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge, “Religious Regionalism,” Chapter Four of The Future of Religion: Secularization, Revival, and Cult Formation (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985), 68-95.

[viii] A. Smith, “An Interpretation of Peoples Temple,” 49.

[ix] Kevin Starr, Americans and the California Dream: 1859-1915 (Santa Barbara: Peregrine Smith, 1981), 70.

[x] Tamar Frankiel, “California Dreams,” in Religion and American Culture, ed. David G. Hackett (New York: Routledge, 1995), 218.

[xi] A. Smith, “An Interpretation of Peoples Temple,” 49.

[xii] Carey McWilliams, The Education of Carey McWilliams (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978), 46-47.

[xiii] Eco, 312.

[xiv] Margaret C. Jones, Prophets in Babylon: Five California Novelists in the 1930s (New York: Peter Lang, 1992), 19.

[xv] John R. Hall, Gone from the Promised Land: Jonestown in American Cultural History, 2d ed. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2004), 63.

[xvi] Denice Stephenson, Dear People: Remembering Jonestown (San Francisco and Berkeley: California Historical Society and Heyday Books, 2005), 27.

[xvii] Naipaul, 227.

[xviii] Tim Reiterman, with John Jacobs, Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and his People (New York: Dutton, 1982), 339-40.

[xix] Stephenson, 71.

[xx] Stephenson, 99.

[xxi] See Rebecca Moore, “Reconstructing Reality: Conspiracy Theories About Jonestown,” in Controversial New Religions, ed. James R. Lewis (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 61-78.

[xxii] Reiterman and Jacobs, 47.

[xxiii] Hall, 42.

[xxiv] FBI Audiotape Q 1058-2, Part Four. Transcript available from http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/Tapes/Tapes/TapeTranscripts/Q1058-2.html.

[xxv] Milmon Harrison, “Jim Jones and Black Worship Traditions,” in Moore, Pinn, and Sawyer, 129.

[xxvi] Harrison, 134.

[xxvii] Hall, 18.

[xxviii] FBI Audiotape Q 1058-2, Part Four.

[xxix] Harold Cordell Jr. letter to Ross Case, 18 February 1965, MS 4062, Folder 2, California Historical Society, San Francisco. Cordell’s emphasis.

[xxx] Ross Case letter to James Jones, 3 March 1965, MS 4062, Folder 2, California Historical Society, San Francisco. The remainder of the quotations appear in a hand-written draft of the letter.

[xxxi] Stephenson, 22-23.

[xxxii] Reiterman and Jacobs, 61.

[xxxiii] For information on Christ’s Church of the Golden Rule see J. Gordon Melton, “Christ’s Church of the Golden Rule,” in Encyclopedia of American Religions, 6th ed. (Detroit: Gale, 1999), 619-20; Timothy Miller, The Quest for Utopia in Twentieth-Century America, Vol. 1, 1900-1960 (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1998), 154-55; and H. T. Dohrman, California Cult: The Story of “Mankind United” (Boston: Beacon Hill Press, 1958), 46-76. Although CCGR vehemently denies ties to Arthur Bell’s pacifist group Mankind United, a document from Peoples Temple suggests a link. Carol Stahl, who eventually joined the Temple in 1968, had grown up in CCGR. Her parents had belonged to Mankind United, and were frequently attacked during World War II when they handed out pamphlets protesting the war. Her brother was a conscientious objector and was imprisoned during the war. See Carol Stahl, FBI CD 3, jonestown_sec_143.PDF, FF-I-96a-c.

[xxxiv] Melton, 1224.

[xxxv] Stahl, FBI CD 3.

[xxxvi] Stahl, FBI CD 3.

[xxxvii] Rheaviana Beam, FBI CD 3, jonestown_sec_143.PDF, HH-6-A-22.

[xxxviii] Stahl, FBI CD 3.

[xxxix] Stephenson, 61.

[xl] Stahl, FBI CD 3.

[xli] Robert V. Hine, California’s Utopian Colonies (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1953, 1966), 5.

[xlii] Hine, 165.

[xliii] Jones, 27.

[xliv] Jones, 23.

[xlv] MS 3800, Folder 1203, California Historical Society. Unless otherwise noted, all references to Peoples Temple memos from 1971-73 come from this folder.

[xlvi] The Temple Reporter, 1, no. 1 (Summer 1973), n.p. MS 4124, California Historical Society, San Francisco.

[xlvii] The California Historical Society has only a single issue of The Temple Reporter; it is not known if additional issues were published.

[xlviii] The Living Word, 1, no. 1 (July 1972), n.p. Available online from Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple at http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/AboutJonestown/PrimarySources/LivingWd1.pdf.

[xlix] Garrett Lambrev, “The Living Word and Me: The Limits of Anarchism in Peoples Temple,” on Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple, at http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/AboutJonestown/PersonalReflections/v7/refllambrev.htm.

[l] Naipaul, 257.

[li] Tanya M. Hollis, “Peoples Temple and Housing Politics in San Francisco,” in Moore, Pinn, and Sawyer, 97.

[lii] Hollis, 97.

[liii] MS 3800, Folder 2172, California Historical Society.

[liv] Reiterman and Jacobs, 266.

[lv] Reiterman and Jacobs, 267.

[lvi] Duchess Harris and Adam John Waterman, “To Die for the Peoples Temple: Religion and Revolution after Black Power,” in Moore, Pinn, Sawyer, 106.

[lvii] MS 4123 / Peoples Temple Papers, California Historical Society.

[lviii] MS 4123 / Peoples Temple Papers, California Historical Society.

[lix] “San Francisco Church Urges Total Support of Min. Muhammad,” Bilalian News (5 March 1976), 1.

[lx] Editorial, Peoples Forum 1, no. 6 (2nd May issue, 1976), 3.

[lxi] Peoples Forum 1, no. 13 (1st December issue 1976), 1.

[lxii] Peoples Forum 2, no. 1 (1st April issue 1977), 1.

[lxiii] Hall, 207.

[lxiv] Harris and Waterman, 104.

[lxv] Harris and Waterman, 106.

[lxvi] Harris and Waterman, 106.

[lxvii] J. Alfred Smith, “Breaking the Silence: Reflections of a Black Pastor,” in Moore, Pinn, Sawyer, 152.

[lxviii] Hall, x-xi.

[lxix] Hall, xii.

Originally posted on September 15th, 2014.

Last modified on October 24th, 2014.
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