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On June 5, 2002, Elizabeth Smart, a 14-year-old child, was kidnapped from her bedroom by Brian David Mitchell. She was missing from her family for
nine months and was found only a few miles from their home. Ed and Lois Smart, parents of Elizabeth and six other children, came together with many members from their community and church to find their missing child.
Now, 10 years after Elizabeth Smart’s abduction and return, Ed and Lois Smart spoke to Weber State University students at the Ogden LDS Institute of Religion on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. The Smarts are both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and shared with attending students their feelings about prayer and miracles.
Lois told a story from her childhood that she said helped prepare her as a child to be able to cope with the kidnapping of her daughter. She said it was her faith in God that kept her strong, and that she believed all of her prayers regarding Elizabeth’s safe return home were answered.
Another theme of Lois’ talk was gratitude. She said to remember that God loves all his children. She also said that, when she was feeling hopeless that Elizabeth might never be found, she reached a turning point in her life.
“I remember hearing in my mind, as clearly as I’m speaking to you, that I should be of good cheer,” she said.
Lois said she has been blessed with the continued safety of her children and how resilient and loving they are to each other.
Ed’s talk echoed his wife’s subject matter of prayer and enduring faith, but he also focused on staying strong in the face of adversity and heartbreak and to prepare for tragedy. Ed said those nine months without Elizabeth were emotional and that he felt in his heart she would come back.
Ed said he and his wife were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from members of their community.
“There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t have someone approach us and say, ‘We prayed for you, Ed, and for Elizabeth and your family,’” he said. “And certainly we have felt those prayers.”
Ed went on to thank everyone who was a member of the search party and recalled that he said one of his greatest blessings in life “is the love we have for our children.”
As a result of their experience, the Smarts are now child advocates and lobby for the national Amber Alert, a public service announcement program that helps locate kidnapped and missing children. They have also worked on several state and national legislation acts that would affect sex offender crimes and DNA collection at crime scenes. The Smarts are also working on a website and program called RADkids.org.
“It really helps children understand the risks that can be out there and how to deal with them in a non-scary way,” said Ed, regarding RADkids.
Ed said “RAD” is an acronym for “resist aggression defensively.” He said he believes the program will help children know what their options are to develop their own plans. The website addresses the four major issues in child safety, which are abduction, bullying and school violence, child abuse and neglect, and sexual assault.
“Being proactive rather than reactive is something that is so important,” Ed said. “We don’t do enough to prepare our children in how to deal with these things.”