Why a multi-million dollar company printed missionary pass-along cards in the back of its books

Photo provided by Carlos Martins

In 2013, Carlos Martins, a Brazilian Latter-day Saint, sold his English-learning school chain to Pearson—the world’s largest book publisher and education company—for $720 million in cash. The son of a truck driver and an Italian immigrant, Carlos founded the school franchise that spread like wildfire throughout Brazil. So what happened when his company printed pass-along cards in each book distributed by the school?

On this week’s All In podcast, Carlos shared how the inspiration came and what came as a result of his willingness to share the gospel.

You can listen to the whole episode in the player below or by clicking here. You can also read a full transcript here.

The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.

Morgan Jones Pearson: You did something interesting with your school and you were able to contribute in I think, a really incredible way to missionary work in Brazil. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Carlos Martins: Well, I believe in setting goals. I think that from my teenage years, I always had a focus on goal setting. And of course, when you go on a mission, that ability or competence will grow and develop. And when you start a business, if you don’t have goals, you’re not going to go very far. And when a new year came, I started thinking of the new goals that I would set for the new year. And I thought I needed to set a missionary goal. In Brazil, missionaries use that pass-along card. At least they used to use these cards a few years back. And then I thought to myself, “Well 365 days, I would set a goal to pass on the card each day. I think that’s a pretty good goal, 365 pass-along cards, during the year.” It so happened that after the month of January, I had given out like 100. And then I thought well, if I continue in this space, after two or three months, the goal has been already done. So I think “Maybe it was too low. Why don’t I change to make a goal of passing along 1000 cards during the year.” I thought that was a good idea. But when February came, I had already given out 300 pass-along cards and some people might think, “Oh heavens, how do you in a month give 100, and in two months give 300 pass-along cards?!”

Well, I am kind of bold. And if I come to, for example, a training with teachers and I have 50 teachers in the room, I start announcing, "Before we start training today, I have a gift for each one of you here, take these cards, all you need to do is call, you’re going to get a free book in your home,” and any place I would go, I would pass-along those cards, and people were very happy. And some of them would even kiss the cards. But anyway, going back to my plan for missionary goal that year, when March came, I said, "Lord, maybe 1,000 cards during the year is not very feasible, oh boy, is there something else that I can do?" So at that moment, inspiration came saying something like this? "Well, you have the web page from your school. Every month, approximately 200,000 people go see your website? Why don’t you place a digital pass-along card on the website so people can go there? They see it. They just click, they fill out with their names and address, and they’ll get the book in their home." I thought, "Wow, that’s great. I’ll do that."

And then, in that moment of prayer, pondering and reflection, and seeking inspiration, said, "Lord, is there something else that I could do in order to spread the message of the gospel?" And inspiration immediately came, "Well Carlos, in addition to placing the digital pass-along cards, on your website, you distribute each year approximately 1 million books throughout all your schools. Why don’t you insert a pass-along card within each book, so that when the person gets the book, he already has the pass-along cards in his hand."

I said, "That’s fantastic!" And then we did that. But in the second year, do you know what we decided to do? Instead of printing out the pass-along cards and inserting the book as you can imagine all the cost and logistics and work to do that, we decide just to print on the last page of the book that pass-along card.

Well, in turn, dear Sister Morgan Jones, I want to share with you, thanks to the inspiration of the Lord, we set up a system with the area presidency in Brazil where we had our own call center to get all those phone calls so that we could measure their results. And every month, every month, we had approximately 4,000 people calling us requesting to receive either a Book of Mormon, a DVD on Christ, or a booklet about the family. So you don’t need to be a mathematician or statistician. If you have 4,000 people in a year, approximately 50,000 people call and request Church materials. You can apply any percentage, you know that some people, will be touched, they will start attending church, they will call the missionaries, and they will enter into the waters of baptism. And then I just have this miracle of traveling to Brazil. All of a sudden, I meet a student. “Hey, Carlos, thanks so much for that pass-along card. I called, the elders came, I started attending church, and I was baptized. And now I’m about to leave to go on a mission.” So I will never know, Morgan, the number of people that were influenced and became members of this Church with that only initiative.

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