Inventory of the Responses to Jonestown Collection

Lucinda Glenn
Graduate Theological Union Archives
Graduate Theological Union
2400 Ridge Road
Berkeley, California, 94709
Phone: (510) 649-2523/2501
© 2008
Graduate Theological Union. All rights reserved.

Inventory of the Responses to Jonestown Collection

Collection number: GTU 99-11-01

Graduate Theological Union Archives

Graduate Theological Union

Berkeley, California
Processed by:
Lucinda Glenn
Date Completed:
Encoded by:
David Stiver
© 2008 Graduate Theological Union. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Title: Responses to Jonestown
Dates: 1978-1979
Collection number: GTU 99-11-01
Collector: GTU Library Staff
Collection Size: .5 linear feet (1 box, 1 folio)
Repository: The Graduate Theological Union. Library.
Berkeley, CA 94709
Abstract: This collection consists of newspaper articles, periodical articles, and sermons reporting or commenting on the Jonestown mass suicide in Guyana, November 1978. The Graduate Theological Union Library staff solicited and collected the materials from various sources.
Physical location: 2/J/3
Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English


Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

Copyright has not been assigned to The Graduate Theological Union. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Graduate Theological Union as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

Preferred Citation

Responses to Jonestown, GTU 99-11-01. Graduate Theological Union Archives, Berkeley, CA.

Acquisition Information

This collection was collected by GTU Library Reference Staff in the months following the tragedy in Jonestown to provide library patrons with information concerning the events and responses to the events. The Staff advertised in various denominational publications requesting original material. The advertisement is found in File Folder 1.

Biography / Administrative History

The tragedy in Jonestown, Guyana, South America occurred on November 18, 1978. On that date, over 900 people lost their lives.
Jim Jones, born 1931 in Lynn, Indiana, opened the Peoples Temple in Indianapolis in 1956. With strong beliefs in civil rights and advocacy for the poor, he intended the Temple to be a fully integrated congregation. He also wanted a strong personal control over the congregation. These dual tendencies of social justice and personal control were to become more and more pronounced with time. In 1963, the independent church associated with the Disciples of Christ, and in 1965 Jones was ordained in that denomination. He began to do faith healing, claiming especially that he could cure cancer. Citing pending nuclear holocaust, Jones moved the Peoples Temple congregation of approximately 100 to Redwood Valley, California. Membership began to rise. The compound, buildings, and programs continued to expand. Armed guards patrolled the compound. Revivals and faith healing services were held throughout California.
With a continually growing congregation, in 1972 the Temple moved to San Francisco, and another was opened in Los Angeles. They had a newspaper and a local radio show. Jones became increasingly involved in politics. Because of his work in social justice issues, he supported and was supported by several liberal San Francisco and California political leaders. Meanwhile, his personal manipulation, coercion and control of his congregation grew stronger.
By 1977, as former members began to speak out about Jones and the Temple, he began to come under scrutiny by the press and concerned relatives of Temple members. Stories circulated of fraudulent faith healing, questionable finances, welfare fraud, sexual scandal, beatings, drugs, and the use of weapons. As early as 1974, Jones had purchased land in Guyana and set up a settlement of about 50 persons to create a promised land. Increasingly negative publicity and increasing paranoia led Jones to again cite a pending nuclear holocaust and race wars to move the full Peoples Temple congregation to Guyana.
The settlement was now called Jonestown. It was in a remote area, a thick jungle, in which the conditions for the people were extremely difficult. There was little food, the housing was inadequate, the forced work exhausting and unrelenting. Beatings and torture were used to keep the people in line. Armed guards patrolled continually. Jones made threats of mass suicide as early as 1977, and held White Night weekly, rehearsing the congregation in suicide.
The rumors about conditions in Jonestown continued to circulate. Concerned relatives began to push California Congressman Leo Ryan to investigate. He responded and organized a trip to Guyana for himself, the press, and concerned relatives. Because of its remote location, they flew to an airstrip several miles from Jonestown on November 17, 1978, driving the rest of the way by truck. The visit, that day and the following, was tightly monitored and choreographed by Jones. Even so, on the second day of the visit, November 18, about 20 people asked the Congressman to take them out of Jonestown. The people were loaded on the truck and driven to the airstrip. Jonestown guards followed and opened fire as the people were boarding the planes to depart. Leo Ryan, two reporters, and some who had tried to escape with them were killed.
In Jonestown, Jim Jones led the people to mass suicide by having them drink punch laden with cyanide. Those who did not do so willingly were forced. Some people were killed by gunfire, some by having their throats slashed. Jim Jones was found dead of gunshot wounds. In all, 922 people died in Jonestown on November 18, 1978.
This tragedy was greeted by world wide shock, and prompted great speculation as to how and why such an event could happen. The religious community responded to the tragedy with an outpouring of articles, sermons, and statements, from denominations, organizations, and individuals all trying to understand how this could happen, and what were the theological, spiritual, and personal lessons to be learned from such a tragedy.

Scope and Content of Collection

The materials were divided into three sections: Newspaper Articles, Sermons, and Journal Articles. These were housed in three separate black three-ring binders. The newsclippings have been photocopied, and the originals discarded except for the complete editions of two newspapers found in Folio 1: Guyana Chronicle and the Caribbean Contact.

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


Jones, Jim, 1931-1978.
Peoples Temple.
Jonestown Mass Suicide, Jonestown, Guyana, 1978.


Marshall Kilduff and Ron Javers, The Suicide Cult: The Inside Story of the Peoples Temple Sect and the Massacre in Guyana. Bantam Books: NY, 1978.


1 Newspaper Articles Nov 1978-Jan 1979

Physical Description: 26 folders, 1 folio

Scope and Content Note

Box 1, Folders 1-31. Arranged chronologically. Includes articles from various U.S. denominational newspapers. Of particular interest are the articles from Caribbean newspapers: the Express (Port-of-Spain, Trinidad), Catholic News (Port-of-Spain, Trinidad), Guyana Chronicle (Georgetown, Guyana)and and the Caribbean Contact (Bridgetown, Barbados.
Folio 1. A full original special edition of Guyana Chronicle, Dec. 6, 1978, and a full original edition of the Caribbean Contact, Dec. 1978.

2 Sermons June 1978-Mar 1979

Physical Description: 32 folders

Scope and Content Note

Box 1. Folders 27-59. Arranged alphabetically by author.
box-folder 1:27

Anonymous, "You Will Know Them by Their Fruits"

folder 28

Statement from the Berkeley, CA, Area Interfaith Council

folder 29

Balfour Brickner, "America's Dream Time"

folder 30

John E. Burciaga, "Lessons of the Guyana Tragedy"

folder 31

Ann W. Carson, "Is Life Spelled Backwards"

folder 32

William P. Clancey, untitled

folder 33

Max Coots, "The Cult Mentality"

folder 34

John A. Crane, "The Meaning of the Jonestown Disaster"

folder 35

Roger Fritts, "Children of Yearning"

folder 36

Harmon M. Gehr, "Cults and the Bicameral Mind"

folder 37

Dale W. Hallberg, "The Guyana Experiment"

folder 38

Richard C. Herbert, "Jonestown: The Poisoned Flock"

folder 39

George L. Hunt, "Christianity and Cults"

folder 40

Jerry James, "The Sins of the Fathers are Visited Upon Us - Now What"

folder 41

Louis W. Jones, untitled

folder 42

Andrew C. Kennedy, "A Little Bit of Jonestown in All of Us"

folder 43

Kenneth V. Kettlewell, "Jonestown - Everytown"

folder 44

Keith Krebs, untitled

folder 45

Marjorie N. Leaming, "The Unitarian Universalist Movement or How to Fill a Sieve"

folder 46

James A. Magaw, "Why Does Religious Fanatacism Still Prosper"

folder 47

Robert S. Magee, "The People's Temple Commune"

folder 48

Raymond G. Manker, "Of Cyanide in Kool-aid"

folder 49

Robert A. McKenzie, "The Day of Our Lord"

folder 50

Hugh M. Miller, "The Church and the Sunshine Law"

folder 51

Spiller Milton, "Testing the Witness of the Spirit Scripture"

folder 52

John V. Moore, "A Witness to Tragedy and Resurrection" (see also 75, reprint of sermon in Church at Work)

folder 53

Dwyn M. Mounger, "Guyana, Guilt, and Grace"

folder 54

Donald L. Padget, "Reflections on Guyana"

folder 55

Kenneth W. Phifer, "A Nightmare Come True"

folder 56

Bob Rowell, "Religions and Cults"

folder 57

Paul Sawyer, "Thru a Glass Darkly"

folder 58

Ernest H. Sommerfeld, "The Missing Word"

folder 59

Charles S. Stephen, "A Passionate Intensity"


3 Journal Articles June 1978-Mar 1979

Physical Description: 28 folders

Scope and Content Note

Box 1. Folders 60-88. Arranged alphabetically by author.
folder 60

Joan Beck, "Many Questions Raised by Jonestown Tragedy," Lutheran Standard

folder 61

David Bergner, "What Can We Learn from People's Temple" and "Who Joins Cults", The Church Herald

folder 62

C.F. Bowen, Editorial, "To Whom Are We Giving God's Money," The Free Will Baptist

folder 63

Robert C. Cunningham, Editorial, "Sometimes the Cup We Have to Drink is Bitter," Pentecostal Evangelical

folder 64

Editorial, "The Dark Night of Jonestown," America

folder 65

Editorial, White Wing Messenger

folder 66

Editorial, "Holocaust in the Jungle," The Sabbath Recorder

folder 67

Editorials, New World Outlook

folder 68

Howard G. Hageman, "Mindless Religion," journal unknown

folder 69

Steve A. Igarta, "The Cry of Jonestown," (typed mss)

folder 70

Philip E. Jenks, "Fanatics and the Merely Faithful," American Baptist Magazine

folder 71

R.J. Kerstan, Editorial, "A Lesson from the Jonestown Tragedy," Baptist Herald

folder 72

Robert Lochhaas, "Guyana Tragedy Reminds Us to Test All Prophets Against Scripture," Reporter

folder 73

James L. Merrell, "Jonestown: Some Reflections," The Disciple

folder 74

Howard Moody, "Jonestown and Ourselves," Christianity and Crisis

folder 75

John V. Moore, "Are There People Free Enough and Strong Enough", Northern California Ecumenical Council, Church at Work, Special Issue

folder 76

A.F.N., "Risk Factors in Religious Freedom," Vital Christianity

folder 77

Opinions, "Hear, Hear," Gospel Herald

folder 78

David W. Preus, "Trust Jesus, Not Religious Fads," Lutheran Standard

folder 79

Kenneth Reed and James Rhodes, "Kinship with People's Temple," Forum

folder 80

John E. Roberts, Editorial, "New Awareness of Evil Cults," The Baptist Courier

folder 81

John Somerville, "Jonestown Parallel," The Churchman

folder 82

J.S., "Playing God in Guyana," The Church Herald

folder 83

P.A.S. (possibly Paul A. Schwartz), "People's Temple and the Cults," New Religious Movements Newsletter

folder 84

Kermon Thomasson, "How Many Miles to Jonestown," Messenger

folder 85

Paul A. Tidemann, "People's Temple and the Churches in Guyana," journal unknown

folder 86

Edgar R. Trexler, "Getting to the Heart of Christmas," The Lutheran

folder 87

Richard D. Tropp, "A Socialist-Christian Society," 6-7/1978, The Churchman

folder 88

K.H.W., "Jonestown in Retrospect," Adventist Review