Ed Smart, the father of kidnap survivor Elizabeth Smart, announced on Facebook that he is gay, divorcing his wife, and leaving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In a Facebook post written to friends and family, Ed Smart made the startling announcement about a dramatic shift in his life. He wrote,
In “one of the hardest letters I have ever written, I have recently acknowledged to myself and my family that I am gay.”
“The decision to be honest and truthful about my orientation comes with its own set of challenges, but at the same time it is a huge relief,” he wrote. “Living with the pain and guilt I have for so many years, not willing to accept the truth about my orientation has at times brought me to the point where I questioned whether life was still worth living.”
Smart later deleted the post from Facebook. However, the Deseret News reached out to Smart to confirm he wrote the piece. In a statement to the Deseret News, Ed confirmed he authored the Facebook post.
In 2002, Ed Smart and his family became internationally famous after their 14-year-old daughter was abducted. During Elizabeth’s 9 months in captivity, Ed spoke on behalf of the family. During the trial of her kidnappers, he remained an active spokesperson for his daughter and family.
The Smart family relied heavily on their faith and the Mormon church during their daughter’s captivity, trial, and recovery. However, Ed says that over the years he’s witnessed ridicule, shunning, and humiliation by church members towards LGBTQ+ people both in and out of the church.
“I didn’t want to face the feelings I fought so hard to suppress, and didn’t want to reach out and tell those being ostracized that I too am numbered among them,” he said. “But I cannot do that any longer.”
According to Smart, he determined he could no longer live in fear and denial of his orientation. As a result, Smart says that he can no longer remain a member of the LDS church.
“My faith is strong, and unwavering, however, after considerable study, prayer and pondering I have come to a change in my beliefs. It is because of this change, that I can finally acknowledge and accept my orientation. Had I not had a change in my beliefs, I would have likely remained closeted the rest of my life.
“As an openly gay man, the church is not a place where I find solace any longer. It is not my responsibility to tell the church, its members or its leadership what to believe about the rightness or wrongness of being LGBTQ.”
Additionally, Ed Smart acknowledged that the shame and guilt promoted by the church toward the LGBTQ+ greatly impacted his self-worth and life.
“Acceptance and love is what makes the world a better place. The crucible of guilt and shame that too many secretly endure is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”
At age 64, Ed is moving into his twilight years. Sadly, his commitment to the LDS church caused him to spend the majority of his life feeling shame, guilt, and hatred toward himself. While some people have criticized him for waiting so long to come out, Smart said he finally feels free. Additionally, Smart understands that his decision to acknowledge his sexual orientation will disappoint and affect his loved ones.
Despite his denouncement of the LDS church, Ed Smart continues to have faith in God. He insisted that God will help his family heal and repair the wounds of his decision.
“Acknowledging I am a gay man is freeing but it also hurts many of those whom I love very much. In the end, people are free to say what they will, and believe what they want, but there is one voice more important than any other, that of my Savior, who wants each of us to love one another, to be honest and joyful and find a meaningful life.”
Elizabeth issued a statement regarding her father’s decision to divorce her mother:
“While I am deeply saddened by their separation, nothing could change my love and admiration for them both. Their decisions are very personal. As such, I will not pass judgment and rather am focusing on loving and supporting them and the other members of my family.”
Ed says that he will continue to love his wife, Lois, and apologized to her for the pain his choice causes her.
“Lois has been a loyal wife, and extraordinary mother, who has had to endure an impossible part of this journey. I deeply regret the excruciating pain this has caused her. Hurting her was never my intent. While our marriage will end, my love for Lois and everyone in my family is eternal.”
Sadly, Ed Smart’s path in life is not uncommon for LGBTQ+ people that are part of fundamental churches. The Church of Latter-day Saints denounces homosexuality and believes same-sex marriage is a severe transgression. Earlier this year, the church announced they would no longer consider same-sex marriage an apostasy. Additionally, the church approved a policy to allow parents in same-sex marriages to baptize their children.
Despite the changes to the policy, the church still considers homosexuality a sin. Additionally, same-sex parents that wish to baptize their children must agree to raise their children in the covenants of the church.
Ed Smart’s announcement seems to imply the changes by the church don’t go far enough to support LGBTQ+ people. For now, he remains committed to God but will no longer be a part of the church.
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles related to trending topics and crime on her column.