The Peoples Temple: A Unique Duluth Resource

My friend and colleague Elizabeth Nelson has donated some remarkable materials to the archives at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

The Elizabeth Nelson Peoples Temple Collection contains items relevant to the alternative religious organization founded by Jim Jones, best known for a mass suicide/murder in 1978 at its “Jonestown” settlement in Guyana.

The collection is available to be requested and viewed on campus — it’s not available online, because the material might still be in copyright. But it’s a treasure trove. The most interesting are the materials published by the Temple.

  • Church Bulletins, June 1970 to April 1972
  • The Living Word: an apostolic monthly, July 1972, August 1972 supplement, September 1972 supplement,
  • Jim Jones sermons, November 1973
  • Fundraising brochure/insert, circa early 1970s
  • Peoples Forum: A Community News Service, 1976 to 1978
  • Mailing from Jonestown, Guyana, undated

They are a snapshot of the church at the moment it wasn’t yet crazy. The founder was a respected and reputable political and religious leader in California. The rhetoric was not that different from the rhetoric of everyday religious institutions.

If you have an afternoon free and you want to think hard about something impossible, ever, really, to understand, call the archives ahead of time and request these documents. They are amazing. As was and is Elizabeth, who continues to be a teacher and scholar into retirement.

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