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Ed Smart, the father of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted in 2002 has announced he is gay, divorcing his wife, and is also leaving The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Smart, 64, of Salt Lake City said in a letter shared on his Facebook page that he no longer feels comfortable being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which opposes gay marriage and same-sex relationships but preaches love and compassion for LGBTQ people. "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,'' he wrote. "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 has five children with his wife, Lois, who filed for divorce on July 5, according to court records obtained by The Salt Lake City Tribune. "I love my family and always will,'' he wrote. "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." "As an openly gay man, the Church is not a place where I find solace any longer,'' he 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. 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 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,” Smart wrote. He added: “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.” "I was attracted to men going as far back as 12 years old," he told CNN. "I tried to suppress that; it's not me, not who I am. I tried to put that out." His daughter, Elizabeth, 31, also provided a statement to TODAY following her father's announcement."My parents taught me as a young child that they would love me unconditionally no matter what happened," she said. "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." Mr.Smart and his family made major headline in 2002, when Elizabeth, then 14, was abducted from their home in the Federal Heights neighborhood of Salt Lake City, Utah. Elizabeth said she was kept tethered to a tree and raped repeatedly during her captivity. In 2003, she was found walking down a Utah street with her kidnappers, just 5 miles from her home. “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,” Smart wrote. He added: “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.” "Never wanted to live with regret," he said. "My belief was something that was very difficult to come to terms with. I tried and I tried to reconcile my beliefs, and I could not. Therefore, I no longer accept the guilt and the shame that I have basically had my whole life." Smart said he hasn't removed his name from the church, though "if they were to push me to do so, I would." For now, he's still a member, but he said religion makes it very difficult to identify with something "that is so put down upon." "The trauma that occurs — keeping that inside — it makes you miserable," he said. "I don't think God wants us to be miserable." "I was attracted to men going as far back as 12 years old," he told CNN. "I tried to suppress that; it's not me, not who I am. I tried to put that out." The post Father of Utah kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart comes out as gay, says ‘I was attracted to men going as far back as 12 years old’ appeared first on Linda Ikeji Blog.