There’s nothing more frustrating to a corporation than to spend millions of dollars creating, establishing and communicating a brand, only to see it get sucked up by the market and reduced to a mere descriptive word.
You’ve heard about companies like Xerox, who saw their brand name turned into a verb over time. Of course Mormons have more than a passing familiarity with Jell-O, now used as a term to describe not a specific brand, but a type of food.
Did you know that Escalator is actually a brand name? Well, it used to be. Once trademarked by Otis Elevator Company, Escalator lost its legal protection when the brand became so ubiquitous in the U.S. that the United States government ruled in the 1950s that the word “escalator” now belonged to the public.
Aspirin. Yo-yo. Kerosene. Thermos. The business world is rife with companies that, due to a number of factors including over-exposure, lost their brand names to the public domain.
The concept of loving your neighbor as yourself seems today to not only be universally understood, but a bit of a trite concept. It seems, in that way, that Christlike love, the kind he not only preached about but went about personifying, has lost a significant amount of its “brand power” in today’s world.
What Would Jesus Do certainly didn’t help.
I wonder how much different the world would be if we stopped to consider the radical nature of Christ’s interaction with the lawyer who tempted him by asking him to identify the greatest of all the commandments (we know the Jews had plenty). Today, we gloss over the Savior’s answer, but at the time it was considered both profound and radical.
That is, you can encompass ALL of God’s commandments in two simple principles: love God and love your fellow man.
Consider the radical nature of introducing new gospel principles that completely confounded Jewish tradition and law. Whereas the Jews had lived previously by the concept of lawful retribution (an eye for an eye), Christ introduced the concept of not just refusing to countersue someone who took away your coat, but going the extra mile of giving him your cloak also.
As sad as it is to say, I’m not sure I see that radical nature of Christlike love even in our Mormon society today. We are quick to “righteously judge” other people because, well, Joseph Smith appears to uncovered that extra word in his Biblical translation and that gives us leeway.
We sue the pants off of people. Last year the Church got embroiled in lawsuit against the owner of a Mormon dating website for using the name of Mormon, which the Church claims ownership of.
Is this really what the Lord’s kingdom is in the business of doing? Going after people for trademark infringement? Wouldn’t Christ’s injunction to “go the extra mile” involve the Church not only allowing the use of the word Mormon, but paying for hosting fees? Where along the lines did it become okay to just willfully ignore Christ’s teachings?
Rather than grabbing headlines for things like silencing dissenting opinions, opposing gay marriage and suing people, wouldn’t we rather the Church be known for radical, almost crazy expressions of love? Especially toward those who could be considered our enemies?
Imagine a world in which chapels around the country were offered up for free for gay marriages, even though our Church believes marriage is between a man and a woman. Imagine an environment where the loudest dissenters were not only not shunned, but praised by the Church for their bravery in asking hard questions, even though the Church still disagrees with them.
As one of the last great acts before his suffering, trial and crucifixion, Jesus Christ established what he called a “new commandment” with his apostles. He commanded them to love one another. Not as the world loves, but “as I have loved you,” he said.
“Love one another.” Has this phrase become so commonplace in our Mormon culture that it has lost all meaning? How can we collectively stop and consider that this was no ordinary commandment.
This was not a call to just be nice to each other. This was a clarion call to show radical, different, amazing, almost non-sensical (from our limited, human understanding) love toward our fellow man.
Dilute a brand enough and it will start to lose its meaning. Personally, I think it’s time for a re-brand.