Mercedes-Benz is against Church values?

There is a small but very interesting controversy involving a street name change in the Atlanta, George area.  Mercedes-Benz USA, which is investing in Atlanta, wants to change a street name to “Mercedes-Benz Drive.”  The Church opposes this, according to local Church “spokesperson” Bill Maycock.

The Mormon church will oppose the renaming of Barfield Road to Mercedes-Benz Drive, which goes before the City Council on March 7, according to metro Atlanta church spokesperson Bill Maycock. He called for a separation of church and brand.


“The Mercedes-Benz brand is known for prestige and luxury and class status and all that sort of thing,” Maycock said. “In the Atlanta Georgia Temple of the church, we don’t do any of that…It’s not what the Atlanta Temple is. It’s not what the Atlanta Temple teaches its members.”


MBUSA met with church leaders, but is driving ahead, according to company spokesperson Donna Boland.

“We don’t feel that the road renaming has an adverse impact or implication on church beliefs, but understand if the church feels it must voice its disagreement to the city,” Boland wrote in an email. “We are focused on being a valued member of the Sandy Springs community and hopefully that will be a more important factor than what this particular road is called.”


The road is currently called Barfield in honor of an old farming family, several members of whom also opposed the renaming idea when it was announced in late 2015. The proposal went quiet for over a year due to the controversy, but is back now that construction on the new headquarters at Abernathy and Barfield roads is underway.


MBUSA, which is relocating to Sandy Springs from New Jersey, said it has a 40-year “tradition” of naming streets around its facilities for the company. German-based Mercedes-Benz is known for using its name in branding, including recently purchasing the naming rights of Atlanta’s new football and soccer stadium.

The story continues:

The Atlanta Georgia Temple opened in 1983, predating the city’s existence by more than two decades.

Maycock said that the LDS church opposes the street renaming on a variety of grounds, including the expense of changing documents and questions of whether it squares with city code. But the bottom line is a corporate brand name showing up on any temple document, from letterhead to wedding invitations.


“I think it’s mostly the concept of being forced to use the Mercedes-Benz brand,” Maycock said. “The teachings of the church and the practices of the church [are] a non-materialistic view of life as taught by Jesus and the New Testament…[and a view of] equality, that we are all equal as God’s children.”


The opposition is currently coming just from the church’s Sandy Springs location, but it is possible the situation will attract the interest of the mother church in Salt Lake City, Utah, Maycock said. Officials there did not have immediate comment.


Maycock said the church sent a letter to MBUSA about a year ago declaring its opposition. He and Boland agree that MBUSA looked at alternatives. Boland said MBUSA put the renaming on hold during the consideration period.

“Unfortunately, no alternative has proved to be viable, and so we have requested that the city move forward with its commitment to MBUSA to rename a portion of the road,” she said.


However, Boland could not immediately say what alternatives were considered or why they weren’t deemed viable. Maycock said alternatives the church suggested included putting the company name on a private road MBUSA is building across its property, or giving the headquarters building an artificial “Mercedes-Benz Drive” name that could be used along with the regular street address.


Maycock said the church will send a formal letter of opposition to the City Council.


“A rancher is entitled to brand his own cattle,” he said, “but not to brand the cattle of his neighbor.”

This story raises some interesting questions for me.

–Does Bill Maycock represent Church public affairs in SLC or not?  What kind of authority does he have to speak on behalf of the Church on this issue?  (I mention this because I can tell you from experience that local public affairs representatives have limited authority compared to Church public affairs in Salt Lake).

–Has the Church always opposed corporate branding?  Are there other examples of this?

–Would Maycock oppose the name change if this were Toyota or Honda or Chevy or Ford?  Is his opposition (or the Church’s opposition) based specifically on the Mercedes-Benz brand, as he implies?

–Was Maycock quoted correctly (this is always a good question)?  If he was quoted correctly, I would say that his statements have a different quality than the usually bland and noncontroversial tone of most Church public affairs statements.

I want to be clear that these are sincere questions.  I am truly curious, and if anybody from Atlanta or anybody else has more information I would appreciate it.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

26 thoughts on “Mercedes-Benz is against Church values?

  1. I can’t offer any new information regarding the listed questions at the end of the post, but I am very curious as how how far apart the temple and the new MB building are? The write up implies only a portion of the street needs to be renamed:
    ““Unfortunately, no alternative has proved to be viable, and so we have requested that the city move forward with its commitment to MBUSA to rename a portion of the road,” she said.”
    I wonder how big of a portion of the road MB would be satisfied with?

    I did find the local church spokesperson’s comments refreshing. Certainly the temple covenant regarding the the law of consecration supports (in my opinion) the overall “tone” of comments.

    But at the end of the day the cattle branding comment seems to express the core opposition, that the Church wants the Temple to be the focus of any related literature or press it publishes. Meaning it does not want to include a corporate ad anytime it provides the temple’s address.

  2. The naming of public properties for corporate entities has become an annoying trend in the United States, particularly as seen in public arenas. Salt Lake’s basketball arena, called Delta, Sprint, Vivant, or whatever they come up with next, is a particularly egregious example of the confusion implicit in such a trend. Today’s apparently stable corporate giant Mercedes Benz could be purchased by some other entity that wants to leave its mark by changing all the surrounding roads to match. For me it is not a matter of Church vs commerce but retention of common sense.

  3. I can see how it would be off-putting to the Church to have to include a brand name in the street address for the temple. And, I don’t have a problem with the Church taking reasonable and lawful steps to oppose that change, though it does appear that the media are making a bigger deal about this than I would think it merits.

  4. Mike Davidson, good comment, but I find it difficult to believe the Church will be able to maintain this policy on a consistent basis worldwide. Street names are changed all the time, and sometimes they are changed for corporate investment purposes. Personally, as an old fashioned guy, I would prefer that street names not be changed for corporations, but I predict it will literally be impossible for the Church to maintain a consistent policy on this. I wonder if the Church really wants to be picking and choosing which corporations are good and which are bad based on the name of the corporation.

  5. I don’t understand why you chose to put scare quotes around the descriptor: “spokesperson.” Have you any reason to believe that this guy is not authorized to speak for the church?

  6. Geoff B., I think that we wouldn’t be hearing anything if this was a regular meetinghouse. I imagine that the only reason a comment was made in opposition is because a temple is involved, which (if true) would significantly reduce the potential future problems. I think the statements by the PR person in support of the Church’s opposition in talking about brand values, etc., are likely just the PR rep talking.

  7. Mark B, asks:

    I don’t understand why you chose to put scare quotes around the descriptor: “spokesperson.” Have you any reason to believe that this guy is not authorized to speak for the church?

    Mark B: as far as I know there is no official church title for a local public affairs person as “spokesperson.” The official title of this person could be anything from “southeastern US region public affairs director” to “stake public affairs director” to “stake president” to “temple president.” I put the quotes around the title to reflect that. No harm intended.

  8. (But I sincerely would like to know whether Church public affairs in SLC authorized him to speak out about this issue. There is specific training given to public affairs people that encourages them to refer such issues to SLC. Local public affairs people are encouraged not to get involved in any controversial issues).

  9. Comments in the linked article mention that a cross-street bordering one side of the MB property could be renamed as a compromise. But it sounds like the main entrance to the MB property is on Barfield, therefore making the official address confusing if it were just a side entrance.

    Another option mentioned in those comments is naming a private drive, supposedly the entrance drive to the property, as Mercedes-Benz Drive.

    Another article, linked to by Dan Peterson in his blog, says that the temple is immediately adjacent to the MB property. So apparently, the cross street mentioned in Geoff’s link is on the opposite side of MB from the temple.

    Geoff, I’m supposing that the local guy is authorized by church hq public affairs to say what he is saying, but hq is keeping things at arm’s length in case it doesn’t come out in church’s favor.

    The local guy is making his/the church’s point, but at the end of the day, the church renders unto Cesar, even if under protest.

  10. Why don’t we do as the sports teams do with their venues. The Mercedes-Benz Atlanta Temple, AT&T Dallas Temple or General Motors Detroit Temple. Sign a 5 years agreement for x amount of dollars. This way we off set the cost of building and running the temples. They can tastefully place there products around the temple grounds. Sounds like a win for everyone.

  11. Based on the description of the headquarters going in at the corner of Abernathy and Barfield, it will (according to Google Maps) be right next to the temple. I think M-B is being kind of anal about this. A name like Karl Benz Drive (or Mercedes Jellinek Drive or Gottfried Daimler Drive) would promote the brand but not in a way that would commercialize wedding announcements.

    It appears that the neighboring Stake Center would have a Glenridge Drive address and its parking lots connect to the temple’s. So if M-B drive wins out, the Church might choose to use the Glenridge address for both buildings.

  12. The quote from the church spokesperson was, “The Mercedes-Benz brand is known for prestige and luxury and class status and all that sort of thing,” Maycock said. “In the Atlanta Georgia Temple of the church, we don’t do any of that…It’s not what the Atlanta Temple is. It’s not what the Atlanta Temple teaches its members.”

    Seriously, while I agree in general concept that the Church teaches and practices non-materialism, when anyone else (from a narrow perspective) actually looks at that temple structure or any other one, I think it would be hard for them to see how we “don’t do any of that” …”prestige and luxury and class status…”

  13. Perhaps I am too much of a history buff, but I really would not want a temple on a street named after a company which assisted Hitler coming to power and profited from concentration camp laborers. And yes, I know the Daimler Benz participated in a remembrance campaign and disavowed the Nazis. But they did that after historians uncovered their horrific activities previous to and during the Third Reich.

  14. Old Man, you beat me to it.

    I was going to ask how the Board of Trustees of a Jewish Temple/Synagogue (especially an Orthodox or Conservative, as opposed to a Reform congregation) would react to such a renaming of their street.

  15. I live just south of Atlanta. The MB driveway is probably 100 yards from the temple driveway, and Barfield itself is a fairly short street. Renaming a portion of Barfield isn’t terribly practical, in other words. The Bro Maycock mentioned MAY be a local attorney who was called as a mission president in the Congo in 2006, if memory serves, who has been fairly prominent in the church in Atlanta for many years. The last time I had any contact with him was when he was called to manage all financial audits for the church in the area. I do not know what his current calling is and suppose it could relate to public affairs. It’s also entirely possible that news people reached out to him because he was a familiar or prominent name.
    Not sure if any of this is helpful but there it is anyway.

  16. This brother is most likely a local priesthood leader for the region who is in charge of public relations. Every region has them. Some people are better at it than others, depending on how high profile their region is. Where I grew up in Arizona, there was a brother in the next stake over, who was the “spokesperson” for the Church in Arizona. Whenever the media needed a quote, a face for an interview in a local issue from the LDS Church it was he who did that.

  17. Ikea often gets the road next to them named “Ikea Way” or some such.

    As for roads being crazy, Arlington has crazy down to a tee. Street names apply to segments that aren’t even contiguous. And in the Northern Virginia area generally, roads change names multiple times across short distances.

    At least it isn’t being named “Gallows Road” like the road that runs next to my childhood home. Another nearby road is “Hummer,” long before that term referred to a car. And “Mason Lane”, another street right next to my childhood home, would also be a problem. Even Benedict “Arnold Lane” where I lived might be seen to be offensive. And now that I’ve been watching the PBS series Mercy Street, I’m amused to see Frank “Stringfellow Road,” which is named after the famous Confederate spy.

    The folks in Georgia will do whatever they collectively decide to do.

  18. Here’s a reach…. With MBUSA as the proverbial great and spacious building and within striking distance of the temple and stake center, could this be the dang-near-literal fulfillment of Lehi’s dream??

  19. I love this: “A rancher is entitled to brand his own cattle,” he said, “but not to brand the cattle of his neighbor.”

  20. By the way, that was a made-you-look joke, intended to make people actually click on the link Leo posted above. Dry humor is so difficult in the written medium …

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