SALT LAKE CITY — Ed Smart, the father of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, shared in a Facebook message with family and friends Thursday that he is gay, divorcing his wife and doesn’t see a place for himself in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In “one of the hardest letters I have ever written,” Smart wrote that “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.”

Reached Thursday, Smart confirmed that he sent the letter and said it speaks for itself.

Smart came into the public eye after his then-14-year-old daughter was abducted from their Federal Heights home in Salt Lake City in 2002. He remained in the spotlight as family spokesman throughout her nine months in captivity, during the trial of her kidnappers and as an advocate for missing children. He said his advocacy work will continue.

“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.”

Smart, 64, wrote that he mostly watched in silence for years as many LGBTQ people both in and out of the church have been victims of ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation.

“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.”

A father of five children, Smart said he loves his family, and always will.

“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,” he wrote.

Third District Court records show Lois Smart filed for divorce July 5. The court seals divorce filings.

Ed Smart, with former Sen. Orrin Hatch, center, and daughter Elizabeth Smart, right, speaks after touring the Utah Crime Lab in Salt Lake City on Thursday, July 6, 2017. On Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, Smart posted on social media that he is gay, divorcing his wife and doesn’t see a place for himself in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. | Kristin Murphy

Elizabeth Smart said in a statement that her parents taught her as a young child that they would love her unconditionally no matter what happened.

“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,” she said.

Ed Smart said that many people have asked him what coming out means for his relationship with the church, which he said has been a major part of his life and a “great blessing.” He said it’s very important to acknowledge the Lord’s hand in his life, and to do otherwise would be to deny the miracles he’s witnessed.  

“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,” he wrote.

“As an openly gay man, the church is not a place where I find solace any longer, “ Smart wrote. “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.”

Smart wrote that he can no longer live trying to appease someone else’s idea of who he should be, and “have come to the conclusion that it was never my Savior’s intent to change me from the way I was born.”

“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,” he wrote.

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Smart wrote that some people will say that he wasted years of his life by not coming out sooner. Others have told him he’s giving up so much for so little, and “you know how the Lord feels about gays,” and concluded that he’s chosen to waste his life by leaving behind some rich and amazing gifts.

“Both are inaccurate and fail to do justice to the deep conflict involved in not being honest with myself and others for so long. Acknowledging I am a gay man is freeing but it also hurts many of those whom I love very much,” he wrote. “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.”

Smart wrote that he believes love is what binds people together.

“While there are wounds right now, I also know our Savior can help heal the damage which this revelation has brought,” he said. “Through Christ love will outlast the grief.” 

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