The saga of the Rev. Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple is a mysterious tale of power and influence - both political and personal.

It involves the meteoric rise of an Indiana farmboy to a position of influence matched by few other citizens in the history of San Francisco.

Jones and the congregation of his self-styled cultlike church first opened doors as the Christian Assembly of God Church in the 1950s in Indianapolis, but moved to the Northern California community of Ukiah about 15 years ago.

Jones appealed to people without a purpose in life. He built a rag-tag band of drifters, old and young, into a powerful church that drew 5,000 people to Sunday services, and evening speeches.

Although Jones is white, a majority of his followers are black. Many were ex-convicts or down-and-outers with nowhere else to go, who latched on to the flamboyant Jones.

Jones had a penchant for flashy ties and dark glasses. He was generally soft-spoken except when he addressed crowds with an evangelical flair that often brought them to their feet.

Promoted as a movement striving to deal with man-made problems through the use of moral force and attempting to build a "good society." the Peoples Temple has been embroiled in controversy for the past two years.

Jones, after moving the church's headquarters to San Francisco in 1970, became a powerful force in local politics. He has been visited at his church by such political luminaries as Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., San Francisco mayor George Moscone, Los Angeles Mayor Thomas Bradley and others. Moscone made him the head of San Francisco's housing authority, a pcst from which Jones had to resign under the pressure of controversy.

In 1976, When Rosalynn Carter swung through San Francisco for a last-month campaign speech on behalf of her husband, it was Jones who bused in nearly 600 of the crowd of 750 persons who heard her talk. And it was Jones who received the loudest ovation.

He had a remarkable ability to pull out campaign workers - and votes - for candidates he favored. His 150 precinct walkers were considered vital in Mayor Moscone's slim 4,000-vote mayoral victory in 1975.

But despite his political contacts, Jones' world began to crumble in August 1977, when the first news accounts of alleged horrors within the church were published by New West magazine reporters Marshall Kilduff and Phil Tracy.

Their story quoted 10 former church members who detailed beatings, slave-like working conditions, extortion and death threats to those who attempted to leave the church or discredit it in any way.

The New West report, and subsequent articles in the San Francisco Examiner, painted a bizarre picture of hundreds of people apparently willing to sign away all of their material possessions to the church at the time of joining.

The accounts led to a public outcry in San Francisco, causing Jones, a 46-year-old father of seven, to leave the United States for a 27,000-acre settlement in Guyana where he said he had begun to establish an agricultural retreat "in order to assist the Guyanese government in a small measure, to feed, clothe, and house its people and at the same time to further the human service goals that have characterized Peoples Temple for many years."

Hundreds of threats were made against reporters and publications that carried reports of church actions.

Still, they continued in San Francisco area newspapers. And the deni-Rep. Leo J. Ryan (D-Calif.), who was killed in Guyana on Saturday, to interest the national press in the story, public exposure was limited to the bay area.

One account from the Guyana retreat, known as Jonestown, came from former Temple aide Deborah Layton Blakely last summer. In an affidavit she gave the San Francisco Chronicle after fleeing the mission, she described public beatings ordered by Jones and a squad of 50 armed guards who watched over the camp at all times.

Blakely and at least one other church member also described ritualistic mass suicide plans that could be put into effect should the mission or Jones be threatened.

Blakely and at least one other church member also described ritualistic mass suicide plans that could be put into effect should the mission or Jones be threatened.

Blakely claimed Jones had "a tyrannical hold over the lives of Temple members," who had helped him amass more than $5 million in donations.

Black members of the church were told that if they did not follow him to Guyana, they would be put in concentration camps and killed, Blakely said. "White members were instilled with the belief that their names appeared on a secret list of enemies of the state that was kept by the CIA and they would be tracked down, tortured, imprisoned, and subsequently killed if they did not flee to Guyana."

Many former members have said they were required to confess, in writing, to crimes they had not committed - including adultery and molesting their children. These written confessions, the former members say, were then held by the church in case these people turned against Jones.

The former church members claimed most of Jones' followers submitted to his authority because they had become almost totally dependent upon the church financially, and because they had been brainwashed.

Jones has called all of the allegations of former members "outrageous lies." Yesterday a church representative, Archie Ijames, said in San Francisco that the Jones group had nothing to do with the ambush.

"We are a nonviolent people," he said. "Whatever the circumstances of the airstrip incident, it is not the kind of action anyone within the Temple would precipitate."

And, in response to a request from Ryan to check into alleged atrocities at Jonestown the State Department had "looked into" the Gayana mission recently, but reported back that it looked fine. It was after that report that Ryan, according to his administrative assistant, Joe Holsinger, decided "to go down and look for himself."

It has reported that the church had already begun to sell off some of its extensive land holdings in California. Property owned by the church in Mendocina and San Francisco counties alone is widely estimated to be worth over $1.5 million. And it is known to own more property in southern California.

At the San Francisco church headquaters, a converted ballroom in the predominantly black Fillmore district, a large parking lot had been turned into a packing area for packages to be sent to Guyana. It is surrounded by a high wire fence and reportedly guarded round the clock.

But observers say local church population has shrunk to "the hundreds," with most of the church stalwarts moving to Guyana.