Mormon father of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart comes out as gay

The father of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart has revealed that he is gay and is leaving The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

On Thursday (August 15), Ed Smart came out to family and friends in a Facebook message he described as “one of the hardest letters I have ever written.”

Smart was thrust into the public eye in 2002 when his 14-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, was abducted from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah.

She was held captive for nine months by husband and wife, Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee.

Ed Smart speaks about his daughter’s kidnapping during a news conference June 19, 2002 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Mauricio Menjivar/Getty)

During this time Elizabeth’s parents made frequent media appearances as they led a high-profile search and investigation to find her.

In part due to the persistent coverage of the case in the media, Elizabeth’s captors were later identified by a couple who had seen Mitchell’s photo on the news.

In 2003 she was discovered 18 miles from her home and reunited with her family. The abduction and investigation have been the subject of numerous non-fiction books and films.

Elizabeth Smart pictured before her abduction (George Frey/Getty)

In the now-deleted message originally reported by Deseret News, Ed Smart revealed: “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.

“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.”

I didn’t want to face the feelings I fought so hard to suppress

The 64-year-old father of five is a Mormon, but says he no longer sees a place for himself in the church as he cannot find “solace” there as an openly gay man.

He described how he had watched in silence for years as LGBT+ 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 ostracised that I too am numbered among them,” he said.
“But I cannot do that any longer.

“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.

Smart’s wife, Lois, filed for divorce on July 5.

Elizabeth Smart, who at 31 is now a child safety activist and contributor for ABC News, gave a statement on behalf of her family.

Elizabeth Smart speaks onstage at the 43rd Annual Gracie Awards at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel in 2018 (Frazer Harrison/Getty)

“While I am deeply saddened by their separation, nothing could change my love and admiration for them both,” she said.

“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.”