The world’s largest hotel chain — Marriott — is set to outfit hundreds of thousands of rooms with Bibles.
Starwood came under Marriott’s ownership two years ago and now the behemoth hospitality brand, whose founding family has ties to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is reportedly planning to place Bibles and copies of the Book of Mormon in at least 300,000 Starwood hotel rooms.
According to The Associated Press, Marriott — unlike other chains that make religious texts available only upon request — has been stocking its hotel rooms’ night stands with a Bible and the Book of Mormon since the 1950s.
“There are many guests who are not digitally connected who appreciate having one or both of these books available,” a spokesperson for Marriott told the AP. “It’s a tradition appreciated by many, objected to by few.”
Copies of the Book of Mormon are placed in Marriott hotel rooms at the expense of both the Marriott Foundation and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Bibles, on the other hand, are placed in the rooms at no cost to the hotel brand by Gideons International.
As one whose life was changed by a free Bible, it’s humbling to know that #lifechurch has been blessed to give away over 330 million downloads of the #YouVersion Bible App. Happy 10-year anniversary, @YouVersion. 🎉🙌 #bibleapp #bibleapp10 pic.twitter.com/izeP48XFHW
— Craig Groeschel (@craiggroeschel) July 10, 2018
Gideons was started in 1898, when two traveling businessmen, John H. Nicholson and Samuel E. Hill, happened to bunk together in a hotel room at the Central Hotel in Boscobel, Wisconsin, for a night. The duo had never met, but soon learned they were both evangelical Christians.
The original intention behind the Gideons was to establish an evangelical association of sorts for Christian businesspeople. When they launched the idea, only one person — William J. Knights — showed up for the inaugural meeting, and he suggested naming the group Gideons after the Old Testament judge by the same name.
According to Gideons’ internal data, each Bible placed in a hotel room has the potential to reach about 2,300 people and roughly 25 percent of travelers pick up the Christian text and read it.
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“So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11 pic.twitter.com/HvdLsp6vQn
— The Gideons Int'l (@thegideons) February 26, 2018
Ultimately, looking for ways to spread the gospel more effectively, the Gideons made it their mission to outfit every hotel room across the U.S. with a Bible. Since 1908, the Christian nonprofit has distributed north of 2 billion Bibles in America and more than 190 other countries around the world.
As for Marriott, the massive company purchased Starwood in 2016 for a whopping $13.6 billion, securing Marriott’s position as the world’s largest hotel chain. As a result of the deal, Marriott now operates more than 1.1 million rooms and generates roughly $20 billion in annual revenue.