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CTR: The story behind the cultural phenomenon + fun facts

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Ruth Clinger was part of the Primary curriculum committee that suggested the creation of CTR rings in 1970. But decades later, she told the Deseret News, “We had no idea it would turn into what it’s become.”

And for Latter-day Saints today, this simple expression has become a part of our cultural lingo, and its accompanying three-letter symbol can be found on jewelry, socks, T-shirts, and bumper stickers as a sort of subtle badge of honor for Latter-day Saints.

But the history of the phrase is older than you might realize, and the green-shielded symbol has its own unique history, too.

Surprisingly, the phrase “choose the right” never appears in any book of scripture. The Bible comes close with phrases like, “choose the day,” “choose the way,” and “choose life.” According to Deseret News, one of the first documented instances of “choose the right” comes from an 1864 talk by Brigham Young: “God rules and reigns and has made all his children as free as himself to choose the right or the wrong.”

The phrase really seems to have cemented its permanence in Latter-day Saint culture after the hymn “Choose the Right” was introduced to the public. According to Hymnary.org, the song was written by Latter-day Saints Joseph L. Townsend and Henry A. Tuckett sometime before 1909 and was included in the book, Deseret Sunday School Songs.

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“Choose the Right” as seen in Deseret Sunday School Songs (1909).
Image from Hymnary.org

Then in 1970, the Church’s Primary General Board made up of eight women created the green CTR shield and recommended it be used on all official Church materials. Shortly thereafter, the new CTR curriculum including the CTR shield and ring, was introduced as a reminder for children make good choices throughout their days and lives.

Today, the Church Distribution Center sells the standard green shield CTR rings in 28 languages. Other retailers make and sell unofficial CTR rings in even more languages and also a few pop-culture dialects like Klingon, Mandalorian, and Elvish.

Here are a few more fun facts about the history and current standing of CTR rings:

  • According to Deseret News, the original committee chose a shield to represent “shielding” children from temptation, and a green background to represent an evergreen tree that stays constant from season to season.
  • One of the original committee members Lurene Wilkinson told The Salt Lake Tribune that the women played with the idea of using "RC" for “Right Choice,” but those two letters felt too close to “Roman Catholic” and “RC Cola,” which is why they eventually landed on “CTR.” Norma Nichols, one of the members of the Primary committee who created the logo, told Deseret News, “Choosing right could mean many things, but choosing the right [means] there [is] only one way.”
  • The Church Distribution Center online store has an option to order a CTR ring in Bislama, the national language in the Republic of Vanuatu. According to the Church’s Newsroom statistics, there are around 10,000 members of the Church in Vanuatu.
  • The other 27 languages in which CTR rings are available through the Church Distribution Center are Bulgarian, Cebuano, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Mongolian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Samoan, Serbian, Slovenian, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, Tongan, and Vietnamese. You can see photos of each of the official Church CTR rings in all 28 languages here.
  • The first adjustable CTR rings were sold for 35 cents apiece. Today the rings cost $1.25 from the Church Distribution Center.
  • According to The Salt Lake Tribune, in 2005, Church distribution services sold more than 522,000 CTR rings in 24 languages internationally.

So whether you’re in the market for a new CTR ring, or you still wear the one you were given in 8th grade, it’s a catchy and simple reminder to make righteous choices and follow God in everything we do.

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