As was pointed out in the article, The Watchtower Way of Laundering Money, their current donation arrangement is simply a gimmick to avoid paying sales tax on items sold in the United States and a few other countries where this arrangement has been utilized. (Some countries still have fixed prices for Watchtower literature).
Apparently, their recent significant drop in income, coupled with the failure of rank-and-file Witnesses to donate funds sufficient to their liking for materials received "free" has caused the Watchtower to make the following statement in the November 1996 issue (p.3) of their in-house bulletin entitled Our Kingdom Ministry:
Jehovah makes provision to fill our spiritual needs through the faithful "slave". (Matt 24:45-47) Many of these provisions are in the form of books, Bibles, bound volumes, videos, audiocassette recordings, and computer disks for Bible research. What Jehovah supplies is always sufficient without being wasteful. He expects us to share with one another, making sure that all benefit equally. All such provisions are produced at tremendous financial cost. These expenses are cared for by the worldwide brotherhood. This is especially true since the organization instituted the arrangement to distribute literature without charge, depending entirely on voluntary donations to cover the expense. Additionally, many branches obtain these provisions from the Society at a cost that enables the brothers to have what they need for meetings and field activity even though they have very limited material resources.
How we can help. We can respond to Paul's admonition to share with others "according to their needs." (Rom 12:13) When we make financial contributions toward the worldwide work, we are directly sharing what we have with our brothers around the world. With this in mind, some have decided to set aside an amount to contribute to the worldwide work each month, just as they do for Kingdom Hall expenses. They recognize that these funds are used not only for literature production but for all facets of the work as well. Imagine the great benefit our worldwide brotherhood would experience if more would share in this way on a regular basis.
Further, we can share with them by always being conservative when requesting items that are readily available to us. Ordering only what we actually need allows our brothers elsewhere to receive the spiritual provisions that they also need to keep strong and to advance the preaching of the good news in their part of the world.-Heb.13:16.
We should especially bear this in mind when we request items that are produced at considerable expense to the Society. These include videos, CD-ROMs, large reference books, bound volumes and audiocassette subscriptions. Rather than requesting one item for each member of the household, could the entire family get along with just one? If we limit what we take for ourselves, it will allow others to obtain the same good things that we enjoy. -Phil. 2:4. The cost of literature that we place in the field may be offset in part by donations to the Society's worldwide work offered by us at the Kingdom Hall and by interested ones who accept it. However, when it comes to literature items we request for our personal use, including songbooks, Yearbooks, deluxe Bibles, and so forth, we cannot expect outsiders to care for our needs. Jehovah's dedicated servants are the primary source of this financial support. With that in mind, many publishers estimate what these items might cost if commercially produced and then they contribute accordingly. For example, a deluxe gold-edged Bible can easily cost $20 or more, a reference book may be $40 and up, a full-color wall calendar may sell for at least $5, an encyclopedia on CD-ROM costs from $50 to $100 or higher, music compact discs commonly cost close to $20 and some videos are often sold for much more. A failure to contribute enough to cover costs will ultimately restrict what the organization may otherwise be able to accomplish in furthering the worldwide work.
Jesus declared that his true disciple would be clearly identified by their love for one another. (John 13:34, 35) Our generosity in giving materially and our unselfishness in sharing with other according to their needs are surely fine ways to prove ourselves to be genuine Christians.
It is interesting how they have even "raised the price" of a number of items! They appear be suggesting a donation of $50-100 for the CD-ROM instead of $25 to $50, and $40 for reference works such as Insight on the Scriptures. Since their costs of producing CD-ROMs could not exceed two dollars each (probably closer to $1), one wonders who they are trying to deceive.
One investigator sent in a donation to the Watchtower "equivalent to that once specified" for some literature, just to see what would happen. A letter, and an additional card was sent back. The letter was a "thank you" letter acknowleding a donation, but containing no hint as to any literature involved. But the card sent with it stated, "We are pleased to inform you that your request for Bible literature has been honored and will be mailed seperately." (See laundering.) Using this technique, the WT feels they are going to avoid legal complications. Time will tell as to whether the State of California decides to reopen the case with regards to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. The following letter(s) illustrate the outworking of this policy.
I thought I'd tell you of an experience some years ago when I served as an elder in Jersey City, New Jersey, during the first month of the change from selling books to the "Voluntary Donation" system. It seemed everyone one and their mothers decided that now was a good time to stock their libraries. Pioneers were now doubling up on their magazines for service. Witnesses who rarely bought anything, were now ordering, the New World Translation on Tapes [which, when price sold for over $100.00] everything and anything was being ordered. I was in charge of the literature counter. The invoices included in the orders were now dollarless. Three months later, the elders received a letter from the Society. It basically stated that they [the Society] noticed an enormous increase in literature orders. That the congregation had made purchases of some $3,000.00 and our donations were only somehere around $500.00. They told us we [the congregation] owed the Society $2,300.00. I'm thinking to myself..."hey wait a minute, isn't the literature "FREE" on voluntary donations?" Obviously not! The Society had it all planned out. In the envelope was another letter, addressed to the congregation. That letter basically told of the great work the Society was doing and how support was needed.
In view of that I had announced that we [the congregation] were donating to the Society from the congregation fund $2,500.00 for the World Wide Work.
Clever of them? The Society still got their money. I wonder how many congregations got that letter? Of course only the body of elders knew the truth for sure, the rest of the friends were left to believe we were so loving and generous by supporting the Society with such a big donation. Mind you no mention of the excess literature order was made.
How can they sleep at nights? It was situations like these that opened my mind to the true nature of the Society. They are a publishing house...we are their salesmen...what was that the Judge said "Advertise, Advertise, Advertise..." Nothing has changed!
In His Name!Rolando Rodriguez
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