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Elizabeth Smart wants to use her trials to inspire others

She enjoyed anonymity during her Mormon mission in France

Published: Thursday, May 19 2011 9:15 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Ed Smart once said that his daughter Elizabeth in general only likes to speak publicly when she has the potential of helping or being an inspiration to others.

After speaking with her for a short time Wednesday, it's clear that the woman who has been through so much and inspired so many people all over the world, is more comfortable putting the spotlight on helping others than herself.

"Mostly I'm just looking forward to going where I can make the biggest difference, doing the best that I can do to help others around me. Hopefully make a difference in the world," she said of her plans after graduating from college.

Smart's abduction from her home in 2002 when she was 14 years old has been in the media spotlight for nearly a decade, including horrific details of the many abuses she endured during her nine months of captivity.

On May 25, Brian David Mitchell, the man convicted of kidnapping and taking Smart across state lines for the purpose of having sex, will be sentenced for his crimes. He faces the possibility of serving a life sentence in federal prison — something the entire Smart family wants.

Wednesday, Elizabeth Smart granted rare one-on-one interviews with members of the Utah media. Each reporter was allowed to ask questions for 10 minutes.

Elizabeth is expected to address the court Wednesday before Mitchell is sentenced — and possibly address Mitchell himself.

"I'm not really sure what I'm going to say yet. I guess we'll just all wait and see," she said.

One point that will likely be brought up is that May 25 is also National Missing Children's Day. It's an opportunity, again, for Smart to use her situation to raise awareness.

"Mostly having it be a day to give courage to others ... give hope to others that they can overcome their trials, that they can move on, that they can move forward," she said. "Life is so beautiful and so short at the same time, and it's so delicate that you just never know what's going to happen. We might as well make the most of it while we can."

Smart has often described herself as a survivor. Mitchell took nine months of her life from her, but she refuses to let him take any more. After Mitchell was convicted, she spoke passionately about giving victims of violent crime hope for justice.

She recently returned home after serving a mission in France for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She served in several places including Paris and ended her mission serving in Normandy.

"It was incredible," she said of the experience. "The best thing about going on a mission is you get to go out everyday and talk to people and meet new people. For me, the most amazing thing was going out and talking to people about the most important thing in my life and what's helped me overcome every trial I've ever had."

In October, Smart temporarily left her mission to return to Utah for Mitchell's monthlong trial. The court case, however, did not distract her from her calling, she said.

Smart also enjoyed not being recognized overseas. The only people who came up to her and recognized her, in fact, were American tourists.

"It was so wonderful (not being recognized) because the message I was sharing was so much bigger than me or anybody else, and it has the ability to change lives for the best. So it was just really wonderful, working every day doing something that helped other people, that made a difference in their lives if they accept it."

Smart, 23, will return to BYU in the fall to finish her classes. She has two semesters left and plans to graduate in April. After that, she isn't completely sure what she wants to do. After Mitchell was found guilty in December, there was talk that Smart was considering a possible career as a prosecutor.

"It certainly is something I've thought about. I'm not saying no, I'm not saying yes. I'm not really sure yet. There's so much out there. I want to really be sure of it when I decide what I'm doing. That I'm doing the right thing."

When asked why she agreed to media interviews now, she mentions that she once heard "some crazy stat" that 30 seconds of press time is more effective than 100 fliers.

"Certainly I hope it will make a difference for somebody else," she said.

Again, Elizabeth Smart using her situation as a way to help others.

Email: preavy@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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