SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Nov. 4, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — Ed Smart, father of former kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart, will be the keynote speaker at a Utah LGTBQ summit after coming out as gay back in August.
Smart, 64, not only announced he is gay, but also said he is divorcing his wife, Lois, of 33 years, and leaving The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In “one of the hardest letters I have ever written I have recently acknowledged to myself and my family that I am gay,” Smart said at the time.
“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 on Facebook. “Living with the pain and guilt I have for so many years, not willing to accept the truth about orientation has at times brought me to the point where I questioned whether life was worth living.”
He is scheduled to speak at the third annual Encircle Summit on Dec. 7 at Adobe at 3900 Adobe Way in Lehi.
“The Encircle Summit, formerly known as IGNITE, will be Encircle’s biggest event yet,” said the Encircle website. “This year on Saturday Dec. 7, join over 1000+ LGBTQ+ youth and young adults at the Adobe building and 500+ parents, allies and educators at Podium building. With over 25+ speakers and 30+ workshops, this will be an impactful and unforgettable day for all attendees.”
Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons, Kalen Allen of “The Ellen Show,” and Miles McKenna, a YouTuber and activist, will also be appearing, among others.
A press release said Smart hopes to bring a message of “hope and safety in taking the step to authenticity” while talking about high suicide rates in the LGBTQ community.
Stephenie Larsen, Encircle co-founder and CEO, says Smart’s appearance as the keynote speaker will be “impactful” and “unforgettable.”
“Ed is a well-respected public figure whose journey to find his authentic self will resonate with attendees and inspire them to find the safety and confidence they need to come out,” she said. “Ed’s trademark is his credibility and capacity to love. He offers hope to the challenges of our community.”
In August, in an interview with KUTV, Smart said his children, including Elizabeth, have been supportive of the news. He also praised his wife, Lois, whom he married in 1986.
“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.”
Elizabeth Smart’s spokesperson released the following statement at the time: “My parents taught me as a young child that they would love me 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.”
Ed Smart also addressed his decision to leave The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“My faith is strong, and unwavering,” Smart wrote, “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.
“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.”