Jones was a voracious reader as a child and studied Joseph Stalin, Karl Marx, Mahatma Gandhi and Adolf Hitler carefully,[8] noting each of their strengths and weaknesses

Jim and Marceline Jones adopted several children of at least partial non-Caucasian ancestry; he referred to the clan as his "rainbow family,"[21] and stated: "Integration is a more personal thing with me now. It's a question of my son's future."[22] Jones portrayed the Temple overall as a "rainbow family."

By the late 1960s, Jones began at least partially openly revealing in Temple sermons his "Apostolic Socialism" concept.[13] Specifically, "those who remained drugged with the opiate of religion had to be brought to enlightenment socialism."[37] Jones often mixed those concepts, such as preaching that "If you're born in capitalist America, racist America, fascist America, then you're born in sin. But if you're born in socialism, you're not born in sin."[38

On December 13, 1973, Jones was arrested and charged with soliciting a man for sex in a movie theater bathroom known for homosexual activity, in MacArthur Park in Los Angeles.

By the spring of 1976, Jones began openly admitting even to outsiders that he was an atheist.[40] Despite the Temple's fear that the IRS was investigating its religious tax exemption, by 1977 Marceline Jones admitted to the New York Times that, as early as age 18 when he watched his then idol Mao Zedong overthrow the Chinese government, Jim Jones realized that the way to achieve social change through Marxism in the United States was to mobilize people through religion.
While most of Jones' political allies broke ties after Jones' departure,[68] some did not. As a show of support, Willie Brown spoke out against enemies at a rally at the Peoples Temple, also attended by Harvey Milk and Art Agnos.[69] Most importantly for Jones and the Temple, Moscone's office shortly thereafter issued a press release saying that Jones had broken no laws

Amidst growing pressure in the United States to investigate the Temple, on February 19, 1978, Harvey Milk wrote a letter of support for the Peoples Temple to President Jimmy Carter.[74][75][76] Therein, Milk wrote that Jones was known "as a man of the highest character."[76] Regarding the leader of those attempting to extricate relatives from Jonestown, Milk wrote he was "attempting to damage Rev. Jones reputation" with "apparent bold-faced lies."[76]

Later that same day, 909 inhabitants of Jonestown,[89] 303 of them children, died of apparent cyanide poisoning,