It might look like a plain, gray BYU t-shirt. But it is deceptively powerful. The power does not lie in the fabric, the stitching, or even the mighty cougar standing atop the BYU logo.
I have several BYU shirts. Blue ones, gray ones, and the seasonal football shirts with the cheesy slogans. Why? I am a proud alumnus of BYU. I had a great experience, and remember it fondly. (If anyone from alumni fundraising is reading this, I am just joking, I have no money, and I don't believe in telephones.)
Sorry - back to the power. The power of my BYU shirts lies in the simple fact that they have within their cotton-poly strands the ability to alter my behavior. It is true. I'm not necessarily proud of it, but it is true. No, they are not magic, and they do not have the power to repel various stains and tears, but they help me be a better person.
Look at the shirt. What do you see? Brigham Young. The famous Mormon prophet. The American Moses. The Lion of the Lord. A colossal name known throughout the country as one of the great figures in US history. Two things come to the minds of most Americans when they read his name: 1) Lots of wives, and 2) Mormon.
When I wear my BYU shirt I am essentially declaring my religion. It is like wearing a sticker on my chest that says "I'm a Mormon." I don't own any other pieces of clothing that says anything about me as personal, or as important, as this.
Nobody looks at a Mickey Mouse shirt and assumes that the wearer was raised a Congregationalist, or looks at a Tiger Woods shirt and thinks "I'll bet that guy is Buddhist." Even a University of Utah t-shirt only promotes the possibility of Mormonism, but also the possibility that the wearer is all about not being Mormon.)
But generating an assumption of Mormonism is not power. The power lies in my behavior change...
Sometimes I struggle with patience, selfishness and kindness. I know for a fact that I am more patient with people I don't know when I have my BYU shirt on. I am less likely to show anger, or to be sarcastic. I suddenly have all sorts of patience for the woman ahead of me in the grocery line who decides to pay with loose change from her purse after the checker is done ringing up the last of her groceries. (I digress...) I am even more likely to stop and help someone, or let someone cut ahead of me.
Yes, I'm flawed - but honest!
My improved behavior isn't as much about how the person will perceive me personally, but how the person might define the Church by how I behave. I feel a sense of responsibility to present the Church in the best light that I can. The kicker is, I should feel like that all the time - no matter what I'm wearing. And I don't even own a CTR ring.
Sometimes I find air travel very frustrating. Airports, airplanes, customs, TSA, etc. Often I will intentionally wear a BYU shirt to remind and motivate me to be patient and kind. I have had strangers in both Europe and Africa shout "Go Cougars!" when they see me. If the Cougar fans notice my shirt, so do others.
Behave as if I had a BYU Shirt, or an "I'm a Mormon" sticker on my chest all the time. Or, better yet, get to the point where the image of Christ shines in my countenance. (Alma 5:19) That is the goal. And if my lowly BYU shirt helps me along the way, I'll take it.