During his last year of high school, Jim Jones was working as an orderly in a hospital in Richmond, Indiana. He and his mother moved there after she and Jones’s father divorced. While working at the hospital, Jones met Marceline Baldwin. PBS reports how this nursing student wed Jones the following year, 1949, after Jones finished his first term of college in Indianapolis. The couple had one child, then begin adopting other children of different races in what Jones would later refer to as his “rainbow family” (via Biography).

After a short stint preaching for the Methodist church, Jones founded his church in 1956. Around this time, Jones began to visit with the famed founder of the Universal Peace Mission Movement from the 1920s, George Baker. Better known as Father Divine, Baker taught his Harlem congregants the ways of economic redistribution, urging them to work together and pool their resources as a way to escape the clutches of poverty.  Father Divine also at one time professed to be God, claiming that he held the powers of the supernatural. 

Jones became familiar with Father Divine while studying world religions and arranged a series of meetings with the aging spiritual leader. Believer Magazine reports that Jones adopted his preaching tactics and was planning on usurping his congregants upon his death. Recognizing Jones for what he was, his efforts to usurp these followers were thwarted by Mother Divine, who kept him at bay.