XSLT can be a difficult language to learn, and, for that reason, it's often been derided as an overly complex language. In truth, XSLT is a small language with few primitives, few operators, and few functions. While there's no shame in consulting the reference manual, it is easily a candidate for a language that you can learn comprehensively. So take heart! With the right guidance and a little patience, it can be done.
Probably XSLT's most difficult construct to learn is also its most powerful: template rules. It is quite possible to work with XSLT while avoiding this construct (thereby missing out on much of XSLT's power), and this is often how people learn XSLT. The problem with this avoidance is that it tends to catch up with you sooner or later. If you can just master this one aspect of XSLT (how template rules work), then you will have overcome the most difficult hurdle. After that, everything should fall into place, and you will have a powerful new tool in your XML processing arsenal.