After commenting on Daniel's blog, I figured I'd turn my comments into a post of my own.
There is an intriguing story behind the creation of that quintessentially Mormon item: the CTR ring. Thinking back on the story as I heard it, I remembered, wrongly, that there had been a debate over two competing phrases: "Choose the Right" and "Choose the Good."
Turns out, this is the relevant part of the real story (from a Deseret News piece by Jerry Johnston based on an interview of Norma Nichols, a member of the Primary General Board in the 1960s and 1970s):
"I remember we thought about dropping the word 'the' out and having just a CR ring - Choose Right," Nichols says today. "I went home that night to think about it. That's when the inspiration came that the word 'the' was the most important word of all. Choosing right could mean many things, but choosing the right meant there was only one way. We kept the 'T' in CTR."
This “only one way” belief is one of the pillars of Mormon culture and theology. Mormons aren’t the only ones who think this way, by any stretch. (Humans seem to have a penchant for certitude. Many people, perhaps most, don’t like not knowing.) But the Mormon flavor of “rightness” is particularly bitter for a lot of us.
How different would the culture of the church be and how different would my and many others’ experiences in the church have been had the Primary Board in the 1970s decided the “the” issue the other way or chosen a less exclusionary phrase?
Maybe the phrase just wouldn’t have caught on. Maybe three-letter acronyms are just more popular within the alphabet soup of Mormonism. Maybe the culture of rightness just can’t bear to even contemplate that sometimes “the” right denies certain inalienable rights, most notably the pursuit of happiness. Still, I hope that someday there will be a critical mass of Mormons in this world who worry less about how to segregate things and people into “good, better and best” (and the outer darkness of “bad”) and more about how to choose wisely and with love.
When rainbow CTR rings become popular in church I think we’ll have turned a corner.