Kidnapping Tests Utah Family’s Faith
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ On Monday, Elizabeth Smart played ``Silent Night″ on the harp at her grandfather’s funeral. It was his favorite tune, and Christmas his favorite time because it brought together his entire family.
Trying as the death was, Elizabeth’s mother, Lois Smart, had prepared her children for it, taking them to visit her ailing father every day for three months.
But what happened two nights after the funeral has tested the family’s strong Mormon faith as nothing else could.
A gunman broke into their home and abducted Elizabeth, telling her sister not to tell anyone he had come. More than 1,000 volunteers are searching for the girl, including 100 Mormon missionaries.
On Thursday, Lois appeared on the ``Today″ show, uttered a few words and fell apart.
``She didn’t even have time to mourn her father. She has a broken heart. She cries 24 hours a day,″ said Lois’ brother Mark Francom. ``She said to me, ’Why would he pick my home?‴
When Myron Francom died at his home in Holladay on Saturday, he left nine children and 51 grandchildren. Lois is the second-youngest of eight siblings; her husband Ed is the second-oldest of six. Their six children range in age from 3 to 15.
With a work ethic impressed upon them by their parents, the children had kept their grandfather’s lawn mowed and planted him a flower garden. It was that level of care that relatives said was a hallmark of Lois Smart.
``That’s the thing that’s so diabolical. That man couldn’t have picked a mother more devoted,″ Francom said. ``Even he, in his perverted way, couldn’t have imagined what this has done to her.″
The family wants to talk to reporters because they believe the attention will help their search. But they adamantly shield their children, particularly Elizabeth’s 9-year-old sister, who the abductor terrorized into two hours of silence before she went to her parents to tell them what had happened.
``We are trying not to talk to her about this, so the pressure’s not on, so she’s not rethinking this over and over, to help reduce the trauma,″ said David Smart, one of Ed’s brothers.
Thirty hours after Elizabeth’s disappearance, her family was out in force at the Shriners Hospital in Salt Lake City, headquarters of the massive effort to find the 14-year-old girl.
A $250,000 reward for her safe return had been posted. Volunteers have spread out across the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains and the streets of Salt Lake City.
The family fasted and prayed all day Wednesday, and their thoughts turned to Elizabeth’s abductor.
``Many prayers have been given (in) hope he would soften his heart,″ Francom said. ``That is what we hope will be his lesson. That she with her bright beautiful smile will come back to us.″
The family’s ties to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints run deep. On Wednesday, church President and Prophet Gordon Hinckley called Charles Smart, Elizabeth’s grandfather.
``He said, ’Charles, we’re sorry for your trouble. We remembered you in our prayers in the temple. Is there anything else we can do?‴ Charles Smart said.
The Francoms have lived in the Salt Lake City area for three generations. The Smarts trace their roots back to Charles C. Rich, one of Brigham Young’s 12 apostles. Rich ran the Winter Quarters in Nebraska in 1846-47 during the Mormons’ pioneer trek to the Salt Lake Valley.
Lois and Ed Smart married 16 years ago, when both were in their late 20s, after meeting at a church function for young adults.
Ed Smart has built two businesses, Smart Realty and First National Mortgage. He bought houses, fixed them up and sold them. He was just finishing up a remodeling project on his current home, listed with a $1.19 million asking price.
The children helped with the remodeling by cleaning up after the workers. Hinckley’s son Richard led a prayer meeting Wednesday night attended by 300 people. On Thursday, 100 Mormon missionaries helped search along with more than 1,000 other volunteers.
Also Thursday, church leaders issued an official statement expressing concern for Elizabeth and calling on her abductor to release her unharmed. They invited church members to help with the search and to help comfort to the family.
``We have our faith,″ said Laurie Francom Warner, one of Elizabeth’s many cousins. ``God is the most important person on our side.″