Teen-Age Preacher

Jones’s journey toward self-worship ended in death in Guyana. But it began in the tiny eastern Indiana town of Lynn, where casket-making is the main industry. Jones apparently confessed Christ as a boy under the influence of a neighbor and Nazarene church member, Mrs. Myrtle Kennedy. He began preaching as a teenager and at the age of 18, he married Marceline Baldwin, a nurse at the Richmond, Indiana, hospital where they both worked.

Jones enrolled at Indiana University but dropped out during his sophomore year to give more time to preaching. He continued his studies, however, in night school classes at Butler University in Indianapolis and finished after ten years with a degree in education. In 1953, he became pastor of the Christian Assembly church (Methodist) in Indianapolis, but a dispute erupted and he left. Jones later said the congregation had opposed his bringing blacks into the church: others, however, attributed the conflict to his becoming a Pentecostal.

For the next few years, Jones held Sunday afternoon healing services in church buildings he rented. In 1956, Jones opened People’s Temple in leased quarters. He sold monkeys door-to-door to purchase a synagogue in a black neighborhood a year later. Interestingly, the synagogue had been headed by Rabbi Maurice Davis, who in recent years has been an organizer of efforts to deprogram cult members.

Persons who attended People’s Temple in those early years recalled in interviews that the services were much like those in any old-fashioned Pentecostal church. Blacks and whites got along relatively well, they said.

But there were things that disturbed members in the inner circle.

Jones and a few Temple members attended a spiritualist camp meeting in the late ...

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