“Silent Service,” New Era, Mar. 1988, 45
Imagine going to church, sitting through three hours of meetings, and not being able to hear a word that’s spoken.
Not a very pleasant thought, is it? Yet there are deaf members all over the Church who face that problem because no hearing people in the ward know how to sign. Have you ever considered learning sign language as a service project?
You might be surprised to discover that there are some deaf members in your ward—there’s a possibility that they don’t attend because they find it too hard to communicate. Asking them to help teach the youth in your ward to sign might be a good way to get them involved again. Or asking a non-LDS signer to teach a class might be a good way to fellowship someone new.
Or you could always ask the missionaries to help—there may be missionaries in your area who sign. The American Sign Mission sends specially trained missionaries all over the United States to teach the hearing impaired. “One of the first things deaf people ask us when we teach them is ‘How many people know how to sign at your church?’” said Sister Kristylynne Brady, when she was serving as a missionary to the deaf in New York City. “If nobody there speaks sign language, they’re not too excited about going.”
“The missionaries can teach in sign language, but the members need to learn to communicate with the hearing impaired so the new members can continue to stay active once we’re gone,” added Sister Marie Swallow, also serving in New York.
The Church has a variety of teaching materials produced specifically for the deaf, including signed videotapes, filmstrips, books, and manuals. But probably the most useful ones for you would be two booklets which can be ordered from Church distribution centers: Dictionary of Sign Language Terms for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, PBIC0369, $2.50; and Interpreting for Deaf Members, PDIC0111, $1.75.
Once you learn how to sign, you’ll not only be able to help in the ward, but your opportunities to help in the community will grow as well. The ability to interpret for the deaf at community functions can be a valued skill.
People don’t always think that taking a class and learning a skill is a service project, but in this case it definitely is.