Read Ed Smart’s letter announcing he is gay

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth Smart, expresses his frustration with the release of Wanda Barzee from Utah State Prison in Draper on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018, as her 15-year prison sentence expired. Barzee was convicted for her role in kidnapping Smart's daughter Elizabeth Smart. Ed Smart recently has come out as gay.

On Friday, Ed Smart posted the following letter to Facebook:

Dear Family and Friends,

This is one of the hardest letters I have ever written. Hard because I am finally acknowledging a part of me that I have struggled with most of my life and never wanted to accept, but I must be true and honest with myself. I have been richly blessed in my 64 years on this earth, and I am deeply grateful for the wonderful examples that have been in my life and the gifts that have been bestowed upon me. Of particular importance to me are the opportunities I have had to help and serve my brothers and sisters, my earthly family and in turn, receive help from them. When that happens, each of us becomes better than we were before.

It is with this same spirit that I wish to share the news 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.

I have mostly watched in silence for years as many LGBTQ individuals both in and out of The Church [of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] 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. But I cannot do that any longer.

Some will say that I have wasted my years here by not coming out sooner. Others have said, “you’re giving up so much for so little, and you know how the Lord feels about gays,” they have concluded that I’ve chosen to waste my remaining years 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. 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.

Many have asked what this means in terms of my relationship with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church and its members have been a major part of my life and a great blessing to me, and for that I will always have a debt of gratitude. It’s very important to me to acknowledge the Lord’s hand in my life, to do otherwise would be to deny the miracles I’ve 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.

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. I can only believe what I feel is right, but it is my responsibility to continue to grow, progress and mature as a child of loving Heavenly Parents, and to do that in a way that is spiritually healthy for me. I cannot be a successful son, brother, father or even friend if I do not take responsibility for my own spiritual well being, and continue to develop my relationship with the Lord.

I love my 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. I believe that love is what binds us together. While there are wounds right now, I also know our Savior can help heal the damage which this revelation has brought. Through Christ love will outlast the grief.

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 can no longer live trying to appease someone else’s idea of who I 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.

Please know that I appreciate your friendship and fellowship. And just like I did, you must decide what is right for you. That being said, I do hope you choose Christ’s example and walk the extra mile in love and kindness. I don’t believe I was born to endure a life of being someone who I am not.

With much love,