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An Open Letter

Over a month ago, I wrote this letter to a good friend of mine, who I knew would understand my frustration in many aspects of my life because she has a family member whose situation is very similar to mine. I have wanted to write this letter to all of you. But wasn’t able to do so, because I wasn’t able to write it in a way that I hope many others could understand my perspective on life and with the LDS church. I knew she would listen and in turn she did give me a great advice which I will take it to heart.

I never joined in the LDS church until March of 1997. Growing up in Utah since 1987, I've been around some great people, and had some very good influence, so a lot of people have mistaken me as being LDS. I even thought I was LDS until a friend of mine, Darren, explained a bit deeper about the church. I joined the church when I was 19, a year after I graduated from High School. Well, at that point in time, my life was changing a lot. It was defiantly throwing me out of my comfort zone, and it still is today. I constantly couldn't fit in, which I'll explain why I feel that way.

At first, it was so easy. So many people already knew who I was. They knew how to talk to me; they knew I was a recent convert of the church and the people who grew up around me knew of my hearing disability. As college life was starting for me, people encouraged me to go to the Institute to meet more people. I was young, vibrant, alert, and was willing to learn. I was making friends on the fly as there was so many people at my age. I was excited about the change. As unaware of the hardship that was soon to be facing me, I thought things were going well.

A year later, I met a girl, Heather Goodson. She was, what you could call, the revolving point of my life that started to open up the hardship that I never was aware of. This wasn't High School anymore. This wasn't Lagoon anymore. This was the beginning of my adult life. That year in 1998, I needed friends more than I ever thought, and I kept Heather close. I was head over heels for Heather, and I really liked her for who she was, but she fought to have us be friends. It was a struggle, but the point of the story is that, I went to Heather a lot because we understood how to talk to each other. Meaning that we communicated very well, but I didn't communicate with her friends. Not deliberately, but I had a hard time talking to them, because they misunderstood what kind of person I was. I had a hard time talking to them in groups as it was like reading 5-6 books at the same time, as I that I read lips a lot more than listening.

I had a hard time being in a group conversation as I continue to get lost and not know what to say to stay on top of it. It never really bothered me that much, but Heather and I talked about it. I would try different ways, and I even came up with a "horseshoe," method, where everybody lines up as a horseshoe, and I would be somewhat in the middle of it. It didn't work very well, as people don't really do it very well. Thus I learned that I can't change people, and Heather has tried talking to them about it. People would just take me as I am, and assume that I am not interested in getting to know them. It began to bothered me, but not too much.

Then things got a little bit harder, as my Mom decided to move to Oregon. I realize that I was starting to be on my own. Friends started to meet one special one, and get married. I didn't quite have that many close friends to be with. I wasn't sure what to do. Then I thought...well, maybe I can go on a mission! So I went and got my papers in, and a few months later, I was off to Oakland, CA. Not so bad, huh? So I thought. At MTC, it finally hit me. Not one single person I knew was there, no one to can rely on to. I wasn't even sure what was going on. I was lost. I only had a schedule telling me what's next, and it was the only thing I can rely on. My companion and the district were all chatting away, every day, learning how to be a missionary. Each person I met, I would have to have some time with the person getting to know them better so that I can read lips, and have a one on one conversation which I was very good at. Reading lips is like reading a new foreign language. But it's the MTC. You don't get to stick with one person, and is just got harder and harder. Finally, at the third week, I broke down. I cried in class, saying that there's no way I can do this. That I couldn't figure out what was going on, and the thought of going on a mission to Oakland, CA scares me. If I got bored within the first 3 weeks...how am I going to make it work on my mission?

The arrival at Oakland, CA...I was quiet most of the time to the mission home. I didn't know how to take the whole thing, but one step at a time. But my companion overwhelmed me. First thing he did was to drop my bags at the apartment, then we started going tracting. Next day, it repeated. I was just overwhelmed as each day grew. Then my bike came, and we started going on bike trips. It was even worst because I would be spending the day following him, not being able to hear him, and not having a conversation with him. I was getting frustrated. So I am hoping you are getting the idea of where I am at.

Now, what did all this have to do with the church, and why I don't go? Truth is, two year after I was converted, I got lost. Darren was the only person that I learned a lot from about the church. With Darren out of the picture, I never had anybody to converse with. There has been lot of things that I don't understand, and as I'm the only member in the family that is LDS, I don't get that much support. Over and over, I have tried to listen to people and learn about the church...it's been hard. So I don't feel like I'm involved. So, every time I go to church, I know what the steps are, and how it's done. But during sacrament meeting, more than often, I don't hear or understand what is going on. So my mind starts to wander of boredom.

Back to my mission, one of the HARDEST things for me to accept was what my companion said to me. This was shortly after a discussion with a non-member, and it was nearly the end of the day. We both arrived home, and I said, "Elder Norris, why did you interrupt me when I was trying to answer his question?" He said, "Elder Isbell, quite often, you give the right answer to the wrong questions." That made me feels stupid. I know it was not his intention to make me feel that way, but it certainly made me feel like a failure. Shortly after that, I was transferred to another mission to Houston Texas, for American Sign Language Mission. It didn't work out too well, as the damage has already been done. So I came home early in 7 months as an honorable missionary release. At least I can't say that I never tried.

So as I came home, I went to the single's ward, and it was a struggle. I went off and on. I was working at an Engineering Company, which I ended up gaining a lot of experience. Life was good, until I decided to go to New York to get a college degree. I did well, and moved to Colorado and started working at Adam Aircraft. Then I lost my job and moved to Kansas.

When I went to NY, I made a lot of friends in the church, and I didn't go to church a lot, but did go to the activities and institute. I had a hard time being in church because I had a hard time with going because of my family, and that I struggled to learn what's going on. But the best part was that I had some very good friends.

Then I moved to Colorado, and went to the single's ward. Once again, I made some good friends, and once again, I had a hard time going because of my Uncle's family. My uncle is the Senior Pastor of the Baptist Church, and as I'm trying to maintain good family relationship, it wasn't easy for me. But I did get a chance to go to the single's ward from time to time. I still made some good friends and I still made some good home teacher companions.

Lastly, I moved to Kansas. And it hit me hard. I noticed that all the other places that I've been to, I've made friends with several guys, and girls… and it was all good. But in Kansas, there was a girl that I met, and I ended up talking to her a lot. Then I thought, well, I would like to ask her out to get to know her a bit better. She took it the wrong way and it got worst from there. Gossips were spread, and people were talking about me behind my back. I didn't have a chance to stop it because I had no idea what was being said, but I later did find out that a few accusations were made against me, which were not true. SO I felt, why do I want to be with them if they can't give me a chance to be a friend to? As for the single's ward...I just turned 31, and decided to leave because of the immaturity from several members I had no desire to be a part of.

To all, I am very tired. No matter how hard I try to "understand" what is going on, I quite often feel lost. I quite often feel that attending the ward is too quiet. When I mean, “quiet,” I meant that I have no clue what is going on. I miss the "fire" from when Darren first taught me about the church. I do believe in the church and it's teaching, but for 13 years, I have not learned a lot. I don't stay very strong to the words of God. Truth is, I am a very independent person, not set in my own ways, but...I have a hard time trusting people to help me succeed. Being in Kansas has really opened an old wound, that I have a hard time healing. I miss my life where I was at before I joined at the church. Clear, free minded, happy. But now I feel that my mind is dark, burdened, and I get up each morning forcing myself to get through the day. I'm worn out.