On the fingers of thousands of children, youth, and adults in the Church, we can find something that represents one of the most simple, but also one of the most powerful principles of the Gospel of Christ. In countless varieties of styles, materials, and colors, a certain ring with three simple letters engraved on the side can mean so much to the wearer. “CTR – Choose the Right”. I, myself, own one and wear it every day to remind myself of what it means to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. However, as much as I hope that putting on this ring will magically make me do everything that I’m supposed to, it can’t, but it’s my responsibility to do my part by remembering the promises I’ve made to my Heavenly Father by putting it on: by doing what it says and choosing the right!
Elder L. Tom Perry, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in his October 1993 General Conference address, recounted a short story told to him by a then mission president in New Zealand, regarding the significance of the CTR emblem to him. He says:
I suppose it started back when I was a bishop and had an interview with a good-looking young man who was to receive the Aaronic Priesthood. He told me a special story. He related to me how one day after school, he and some of his friends found a package of cigarettes. They decided to go down on the cliff alongside some large boulders and smoke them. They lit up, and the young man said that as he was looking down at the smoldering cigarette that he held between his fingers, he saw his CTR ring. He quickly put the cigarette out and made a very wise choice, never ever to do such a thing again. He chose to choose the right, as he remembered what the emblem stood for.
This story is so significant because this young man, with a little reminder from his ring finger and the Holy Ghost, was able to remember who he was and what he stood for. Now, I pray that we are able to remember who WE are and what WE stand for, long before we are holding a lit cigarette, pouring a glass of coffee or alcohol, or mousing over the link to an inappropriate website. Because it is much easier to stay completely away and spiritually flee from sin, as Joseph did when tempted by Potiphar’s wife, than to try and turn a full 180 degrees the other direction, right as you are about to do something you will regret.
My seminary teacher, Brother Butler, taught one of my favorite lessons concerning this principle that I will not soon forget. He counseled to our class to create things in our lives that are what he called, “lines before the line”.
Now, there are very clear definitions as to what breaking the law of chastity, the Word of Wisdom, or any other commandment means. However, I promise that we will never have to worry about crossing those boundaries if we set our own, personal boundaries, or “lines before the line” that are far from the fine line of sin.
For example, I never have to worry about being tempted to drink alcohol if I promise to myself and to the Lord that I will never go to a party where there is alcohol or any other activity where alcohol is involved. I don’t ever need to worry about watching pornography if I promise to never bring a computer into my room alone, get onto the internet past when everyone has gone to bed, or have there be no one around when I use the computer. Never again do I have to worry about thinking about something I shouldn’t if I promise to never entertain a bad thought when it enters my mind and instead think of my favorite hymn.
I testify that if we but take the time to set, with the help of the Lord, our own personal boundaries, we will never have to endure the gall of bitterness, the bonds of iniquity, or the darkest of abysses that Alma the younger faced and described during his repentance process. The Lord wants so much for us to return to live with Him, and he has provided so many ways for us to remain faithful and worthy.
The first verse in Hymn number 239 goes like this (and I know you’ll all be disappointed but I won’t be singing it):
Choose the right when a choice is placed before you
In the right the Holy Spirit guides;
And its light is forever shining o’er you,
When in the right your heart confides
Choose the right! Choose the right!
Let wisdom mark the way before.
In its light, choose the right!
And God will bless you ever more.
One of the most important lines in that, for me, is the second one. “In the right, the Holy Spirit guides.” That is one of the most important things to remember when trying to choose the right. Having the Spirit with us is key when we are at that crossroads of what we should do. Allow me to call this something else for a moment. Having the Spirit with us is key when we are searching for personal revelation, because that is exactly what that is! When we can feel the Holy Ghost telling us to do something, we are receiving personal revelation.
Recognizing the Spirit when it is present is a skill that takes just as much practice as any other skill. No one walks onto the basketball court having never even touched a basketball before expecting to perform as well as someone who has spent thousands of hours shooting and dribbling until they are proficient in that skill. It is the same with the Spirit. We cannot expect the Spirit to give us personal revelation if we have not put in the time practicing recognizing the Spirit while doing things such as attending church, reading our scriptures, and praying to our Father in Heaven.
When we do take the time to practice, however, the Lord has promised time and time again that His Spirit will be with us as long as we are trying our very best to do what is right.
I would like to close by reading a poem belonging to one of Elder Perry’s granddaughters. This poem was written by her mother and was read preceding her baptism.
Now keep in mind this was written for a girl, but all of you manly men out there better brace yourselves and grab a tissue because it gets pretty soppy.
Just as the CTR ring on my finger and the one in Elder Perry’s story, this young girl’s white dresses were the reminders to her of the person that she wanted to be. Already at eight years old she is starting to recognize the importance of remaining clean and pure so that she can go to the temple in her “third white dress”, to be sealed to her husband for time and all eternity.
Brothers and Sisters, I encourage each of you to find your own token of the promises you’ve made with yourself and with the Lord. It doesn’t have to be expensive or big or extravagant, just a small reminder like a ring, necklace, tie-tack, or whatever small trinket you can find, that will bring to your memory the words “Choose the Right”.
“…he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you…”
If we choose the right and apply the principles of the “lines before the line”, that blessing found in Mosiah 2:24 will apply to us as well.
He will IMMEDIATELY bless us.
I’d like to bear my testimony that I know that this Church is true. I would never spend two years of my life to go to New York City to do nothing but convince people that this Church is true if I didn’t truly believe it for myself. The winning side is already decided. It is up to us to choose whether we are going to choose the right and be lifted up in the last day, or follow Satan and choose the wrong. But if we do slip up once in a while (which we all will I promise), our Savior Jesus Christ has provided the perfect Atonement for us, if we are but willing to use it.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.