Did people have Bibles in Jonestown?

It is known that people were discouraged from packing Bibles among their personal effects to bring to Jonestown, but it is also known that the leadership didn’t necessarily confiscate every Bible that came to its attention, especially – as the issue was raised during a meeting one night – if its owner was an elderly black lady who wasn’t otherwise in the habit of defying Jones.

Nevertheless, Bibles did exist in Jonestown. A report by the Government of Guyana issued in March 1979 that inventoried “all types and categories of physical assets at the Jonestown Settlement at the time of the tragedy” included an appendix listing the books recovered at the site that identified 15 Bibles among the 7000 volumes recovered (Entry 1238). At the same time, the records from the Jonestown library itself include no Bibles, which suggests that the recovered Bibles were owned by individuals.

Jim Jones made occasional references to the Bible – most often during the course of a newscast – as the book that was used to enslave the forebears of most of his followers. At the same time, he did not present lengthy analyses or criticisms of the “Black Book” in Jonestown as he had in the Temple’s last years in California.

Jones has been reported as saying that his followers should use the pages from the Bible as toilet paper, although there is a difference in opinion among former Temple members as to whether the memory of the quote is accurate or a post-tragedy recollection.