the great controversy

Thanks, Pope Francis: Why a publisher spent $1M to mail ‘The Great Controversy’ to Philly and why it’s legal

Get excited: If you have “a struggle raging in your own heart,” the colorful 400-page book of religious material that maybe came in your mail within the last week will fix that.

At least, that’s according to Remnant Publications, a Coldwater, Mich.-based nonprofit whose sole purpose is to mail out religious materials. The company spent more than a million bucks blanketing Philadelphia zip codes this week by sending out about 700,000 copies of “The Great Controversy – Past, Present, Future – How will it end?” to residents across the city through the U.S. Postal Service.

The book’s original version was written in 1858 (pre-Civil War) by Ellen G. White, a Christian religious figure who co-founded the Protestant denomination of “The Seventh Day Adventist Church.” The book is a history lesson in Christian reform and a look at the books of Daniel and Revelation, including the “great controversy” between Jesus and Satan and the imminent end of the world.

“With our world in such disarray, with so little time left, we don’t have time to bash religions or people or ideas,” read a small card that came along with the book in the mail. “We only have time to discover the truth before it’s too late.”

Feel inspired yet?

The mass mailing of the book is part of Remnant Publications’ efforts to cover North American cities with 10 million copies of The Great Controversy, the Seventh Day Adventists’ flagship publication. Over the last several years, it’s mass-mailed nearly seven million of copies of the book in cities like Washington, D.C., Charlotte, N.C., San Francisco and even sent a million copies to residents of Manhattan, according to Remnant CEO Dwight Hall.

Remnant Publications' office in Coldwater, Michigan.

Remnant Publications' office in Coldwater, Michigan as of October 2013.

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The outreach from the group that believes the end of the world is probably near is funded largely through donations. Hall said that as a publishing company, Remnant then pays for the book to be printed en masse, and it costs somewhere around $1.10 per copy to send (less than the $11.95 retail price) including the shipping costs.

“If you don’t like it, throw it away,” Hall said. “It’s not forcing anything just because you got it in the mail. I think it’s cool people care enough to send out these books knowing the majority won’t get read. But some will.”

Hall also said the individuals who put together fundraisers for the Philadelphia mail-out — whom Hall wouldn’t name — targeted the outreach to coincide with the upcoming Papal visit as a way to remind people that some Protestants want to keep religion and politics separate. He added: “When you’ve got such power and you’re getting into politics, that scares a lot of people.”

Some Philly residents who have received the book have wondered about the legality of mass mailing religious material without targeting specific residents.

But Postal Service spokesman Ray Daiutolo told Billy Penn the move is legal, and the postal service allows for nonprofits like this one to mass mail to certain zip codes.

“As long as they’ve dotted their I’s and crossed their T’s,” he said. “There are forms and processes to get a nonprofit mailing permit, and as far as target audiences, we don’t really oversee that.” He added as long as a nonprofit mailing permit is up-to-date, the company is able to mass send pieces of mail through the postal service. According to the Postal Service’s code, organizations are allowed to send any material that is “it’s own,” and this book wouldn’t fall into restricted mass mailings like pre-approved credit cards, insurance policies or travel arrangements.

As for the response from Philadelphians, Hall said he was delighted when one resident mailed him back a copy of Buddhist teachings — it shows the person at least cared enough to send it back. Others in the past have proclaimed that they’re atheist and “written cuss words on every other page.” For Remnant, they’re just happy people are taking time to do something with the book.

“I think for them to get that concerned, there must be something going on in their conscience,” he said, “because I get bulk mailings and I just throw it away. But we get way, way more great responses that say, ‘I knew something wasn’t right, and I started reading this book and it changed my life.'”

Haven’t received your copy yet of The Great Controversy? You probably will. Some zip codes have already received the books, but the mail-outs could last over several weeks. If you haven’t gotten yours yet, it could still be coming. For now, you can enjoy its legitimacy via conservative talk show host Glenn Beck:

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