Thirty years ago (on November 18, 1978) over 900 people died in Guyana, South America, victims of spiritual deception. Living in Jonestown under the care of self-proclaimed prophet Jim Jones, many of these people died willingly, drinking poisoned punch in obedience to a directive given them by their prophet.
Some of the victims may not have realized that they were actually drinking poison.
Jim Jones often conducted what they called “white nights” in Jonestown, nights where they were practicing in the event they were under attack. On these occasions, they would often practice mass suicide. The members after a while often stopped taking these seriously, although on the first occasion people reminisced “this punch is going to be passed out to everyone here. We all drank our punch, and then he said ‘you just drank poison and we will all die right here in the church together.’ The women were screaming oh no my baby my baby, and others just sat there. And then Jim said ‘you didn’t drink poison,'” and also the comment, “Jim said this was a test of loyalty. He just wanted to see if we were truly committed, and that is how we would show it.” (“How did Jim Jones manage to gain such control over his followers?” by Tim Brooks)
Such unquestioning spiritual loyalty has been responsible for many needless deaths since 1978 – and before. Remembering Jonestown should be a wake-up call to all of us. God calls us to discernment — to know His truth from error, and His prophets from false prophets — for our safety, both physical and spiritual.
Today, remember the victims:
- 2001 – Al Qaeda, 2,974 deaths
- 2000 – The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, 925 deaths
- 1997 – Heaven’s Gate, 39 deaths
- 1995 – Aum Shinrikyo, 12 deaths
- 1994 – Order of the Solar Temple, 53 deaths
- 1993 – Branch Davidians, 76 deaths
- 1990 – Mormon splinter group led by Jeffrey Lundgren, 5 deaths
- 1978 – People’s Temple Christian Church, 914 deaths
- 1857 – Latter-day Saint group at Mountain Meadows, 120 deaths
Commit anew to share more urgently what Jesus said:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)