Choose the right

A generation of Church members have grown up with the CTR ring.

It was introduced in 1970 by the Primary organization as a memento to help children remember to "choose the right." And though the ring has never been part of the formal liturgy of the Church, it has been a durable tradition in the Latter-day Saint culture — and not just for Primary children. Today, many youth and adults wear versions of the ring designed for older folks.

For more mature members, some have suggested alternate meanings for the "CTR" initials in the ring, such as "Current Temple Recommend." And a reversal of the initials to "RTC" could reflect the motto "Remember Temple Covenants."

As with all symbols, the value lies not in the ring itself, but the concept it represents, one pertaining to doctrines of moral agency and accountability, to sanctification and the atonement of Christ, to the need to endure to the end.

It is a priceless concept indeed, at once simple and profound.

Little wonder that one of Satan's most insidious and effective methods in destroying God's plan for us is to convince mortal men and women that the right to choose has no meaning or validity in their lives. He persuades some that their course and fate are driven by internal and environmental forces beyond their control and, thus, they may as well not strive to follow a course of righteousness. Others he confuses by convincing them that a mere verbal confession of belief in God all by itself is enough to guarantee their salvation, that there is no place in their belief system for good works.

At first glance, such an outlook may have some transitory appeal. A belief that one cannot choose his course seems to relieve one of the necessity of effort and discipline. And yet, there is something inherently, eternally unsatisfying about such an attitude, something that makes reason object. Astute observation convinces us that nothing worthwhile in this world comes without effort; surely the same principle must apply in the eternities.

Far from being depressing or intimidating, a realization that our well being in large measure depends upon the choices we ourselves make is wonderfully liberating, exhilarating and empowering. Consider for a moment: We need not be enslaved by the ungodly tendencies that are part of the "natural man" (see Mosiah 3:19). In charting an eternal course, we need not regard ourselves as prisoners to external forces. We can choose instead to govern ourselves in accordance with sacred covenants, trusting in the associated promises of blessings from God to be poured out upon those who so choose.

Perhaps it is for that reason that Nephi's brother Jacob proclaimed to his people, "Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves — to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life." (2 Nephi 10:23.)

The Book of Mormon concept of "acting and not being acted upon" (see 2 Nephi 2:13, 26) has been an occasional theme in the sermons of President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency. In April, at the priesthood session of the most recent general conference, he said: "Each of us has moral agency, and the gift of the Holy Ghost will sharpen our impressions of what is right and wrong, true and false. It is the responsibility of the prophets of God to teach the word of God, not to spell out every jot and tittle of human conduct. If we are conscientiously trying to avoid not only evil but the very appearance of evil, we will act for ourselves and not be acted upon."

As Joseph L. Townsend enjoined in his hymn many years before the CTR ring came into being:

Choose the right!

Let no spirit of digression

Overcome you in the evil hour.

There's the right and the wrong to every question;

Be safe through inspiration's power.