When a Latter-day Saint child is old enough to graduate from Nursery class to the Primary program, they will soon mark their right of passage by receiving their very own CTR Ring. I remember the day my primary teacher gave me my first ring. I proudly ran through the chapel to show it off to my mother. Less than 20 years later, I was the mother being run to; smiling and listening intently as my excited 6-year-old displayed her new ring.
This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the small, inexpensive, expandable jewelry piece which has become a beloved Mormon symbol.
In the 1960’s, Primary General President Helen Alldredge designed a shield logo with the letters “CTR” as a visual aid for teaching the children to “Choose The Right”. The shield represents the power of the Lord (Psalm 33:20) shielding His children from temptation and spiritual danger. The green background was chosen to represent the evergreen tree, which is steadfast and unchangeable from season to season.
In 1970 a committee of eight women were called to design a new program for the 6 and 7 year old children of the church. It was decided the children needed a “badge of belief”, and the CTR Ring was born.
Although the specific phrase “Choose the Right” does not appear in the scriptures, there are countless stories demonstrating the consequences of choosing right [following God's commandments], or wrong [rejecting God's commands]. LDS prophet President Brigham Young once mentioned the phrase in a talk dated 1864.
“God rules and reigns and has made all his children as free as himself to choose the right or the wrong.” – Doctrines of Brigham Young, 55
The words became significant in Mormon culture when Joseph Townsend used the phrase 14 times in the LDS hymn “Choose the Right“, [written 30 years prior to the introduction of the CTR Ring].
During the 1970 October General Conference, it was Gordon B. Hinckley who announced the new Primary “CTR” curriculum. As part of this new program, children ages 6 and 7 would receive one of the new CTR rings.
The original CTR rings sold for 35 cents. Today, they can be purchased through the church distribution office for $1, in several different languages. The logo was not patented, so many enterprising business owners and jewelers have profited by offering specialty rings, pendants, t-shirts and hundreds of other products with the “CTR” logo, in every language imaginable.
In fact, when I lived and studied in Jerusalem in 1987, a prominent Israeli jewelry store began designing CTR rings with Hebrew characters to cater to the many Mormon tourists and students. [business was good]
Countless articles and talks have been written about the Mormon CTR symbol over the years. Recently, author Susan Evans McCloud shared “Fads, Facts, and Fiction of CTR Rings“. Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles once based an entire Conference address upon the symbol, entitling his talk “CTR“.
In his talk, Elder Perry shared a story about a New Zealand Mission president who wore a beautiful CTR tie tack, and later explained the significance of the pin, which was a gift from the people of the Navajo nation.
“I believe that Navajo bishop was inspired to give me the tie tack, and I feel that I make the right decision every day when I choose to wear it.” – CTR, Oct. 1993
In summary, it is certainly not a piece of jewelry, or a logo that is singularly important to our religion. Rather, it is the potential the symbol has for reminding and motivating us, beginning at a young age, to Choose the way of Christ, each and every day. Because walking the Right way, is the recipe from God for true peace and happiness.
The hymn “Choose The Right” is sung at General Conference