The words and concept first became familiar and loved through the lyrics of Joseph L. Townsend in his hymn by that name: "Choose the right when a choice is placed before you, in the right the Holy Spirit guides … choose the right, choose the right, let wisdom mark the way before; in its light choose the right, and God will bless you evermore."
Townsend was born in Pennsylvania in 1849, came to Salt Lake City for his health in 1872 and joined the church, later serving as a missionary in the Southern States Mission. For 15 years he had a drugstore in Payson, then taught at BY Academy and Salt Lake City High. A mere 10 of his hymns yet remain in the current hymnal, but all are recognizable favorites, such as "Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words," "The Iron Rod" and "Hope of Israel."
Brother Townsend lived to be just shy of 93, dying in 1942, nearly 30 years before the changes that would bring new meaning and new scope to his words.