Ed Smart, father of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, comes out as gay

Ryan W. Miller

Ed Smart, the father of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, came out as gay in a letter to family and friends posted to Facebook, and said he and his wife are separating, local media in Utah reported.

Smart confirmed to the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune that he wrote the letter but declined to comment further. The Tribune reported that the post published Thursday has since been deleted.

Elizabeth Smart told the newspapers that she was "deeply saddened" by her parents' separation, but didn't comment on her father's sexuality. 

Elizabeth Smart and her father Ed Smart talk to the media in front of the Frank E. Moss Federal Courthouse Wednesday, May 25, 2011, in Salt Lake City.

In 2002, then 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her home in Salt Lake City and held captive for nine months. Smart was repeatedly raped and drugged by her captors, Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee. She has since become an advocate for kidnapping and sexual-assault survivors.

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One of Smart's captors released: Wanda Barzee, one of the kidnappers of Elizabeth Smart, released from prison

In his letter, Ed Smart, 64, acknowledged it was "one of the hardest letters I have ever written."

"I have recently acknowledged to myself and my family that I am gay," the letter states, per the Deseret News.

"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 continued. "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 also called his wife, Lois, "loyal" and said she is an "extraordinary mother."

"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," the newspaper reported he wrote.

According to the Deseret News and the Tribune, court records show Lois Smart filed for divorce July 5.

In her statement to the newspaper, Elizabeth Smart said she still loves and admires her parents.

"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 his announcement came along with a change in beliefs. While he doesn't "find solace any longer" within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Smart said his faith is still strong.

The church recently changed its teaching on same-sex couples, saying that gay marriage will no longer be considered a sin worthy of expulsion and that LGBTQ parents can have their children baptized.

New same-sex teaching: Mormons to allow baptisms for children of LGBTQ parents, won't expel those in same-sex marriages

The reversal came in April, four years after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said those in same-sex relationships were “apostates’’ who must be banished from the religion.

The church's change in doctrine, however, did not reverse its opposition to gay marriage and still regards same-sex relationships as a “serious transgression." 

Smart wrote in his letter that "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,” according to the Deseret News.

He added: "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."

Contributing: John Bacon and Jorge Ortiz. Follow USA TODAY's Ryan Miller on Twitter: @RyanW_Miller

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ed Smart, Elizabeth Smart father, comes out as gay, announces divorce