Who is Jim Jones—the social-spiritual cult leader of the People’s Temple whose 900 followers in Guyana committed murder-suicide last month?CHRISTIANITY TODAYstudies the sequence of events leading to that tragic death orgy. Correspondent Paul Scotchmer, based in San Francisco, interviewed former People’s Temple members there, while senior editor Edward Plowman assisted by investigating Jones’s Indiana origins.

Perhaps the mysterious power of fallen cult leader Jim Jones is explained best by a conversation more than thirteen years ago inside the home of cult defector Ross Case.

Case, then an associate pastor of the People’s Temple in Indianapolis, had just moved to Ukiah, California. Case thought Ukiah would be the safest place during the imminent nuclear holocaust predicated by his good friend Jones.

People’s Temple member Archie Ijames was visiting Case in his new California home one night in February, 1965. And Case didn’t like what Ijames had to say.

Jones had issued an ultimatum to Ijames and another Temple associate: Choose me or Jesus. Jones had said: “You go out and preach Jim Jones, and I’ll back it up with miracles.”

Ijames chose to follow Jones. He told Case, “I felt like I had to do it, even if I fell on my face.” Ijames told Case that he had decided to “submit my mind completely” to Jim Jones.

Jones followed Case to California (originally a suggestion by Case). But after his discussion with Ijames, Case decided not to follow Jones. He broke off from the Temple, and for that action, Jones would later ridicule and defame Case.

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Tags:
Issue: