As Chair of the Board of Trustees, I pledge to you that the board will give careful attention to the input received. Your voice has been heard. There are valuable lessons for all of us to learn. But my purpose for writing today is to clarify where I believe we are, and to urge us forward.
We are in a place where decisions have been made, policy has been followed, and now we must find ways to live into the new reality. Those steps must be taken by all. I commit to work with our president and the board to ensure our future. I invite the campus community to work redemptively with us.
Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps has died, aged 84, of an as-yet-undisclosed illness, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports. A fire-and-brimstone preacher at his Kansas-based fundamentalist church, he gained national attention in the 1990s for picketing military funerals and other events with signs bearing slogans like "God Hates Fags," and for his role in the events following the death of Matthew Shepard, as depicted in the film The Laramie Project.
Phelps' activities tested the limits of freedom of speech and religion. His roving congregation traveled the nation to voice its disapproval of homosexuality, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and preach the gospel of an angry God prepared to smite a world full of sinners. The LGBT community, minorities, Jews, immigrants, celebrities and other public figures all drew his ire, and he deployed placard-wielding members of his family—sometimes children as young as 7—to the funerals of Frank Sinatra, Sen. Barry Goldwater, Coretta Scott King and others.
According to a BBC documentary, he was the patriarch of the "most hated family in America." The Southern Poverty Law Center called his congregation, largely comprised of members of his extended family, "arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America."
In what is being called a fundamental shift in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more young Mormon women will be participating in missions in the coming years, expecting to trigger sharp drops in some of the region's colleges.
This morning's New York Times reports that the change comes from an October 2012 decision from the LDS church to lower its age for female missionaries from 21 down to 19. The Times reports that so many women signed up right out of the gate that a number of colleges saw immediate drops in enrollment and "the standard image of a Mormon missionary, a gangly young man in a dark suit, was suddenly out of date."
The Times' Laurie Goodstein and Jodi Kantor report that LDS church leaders "have been forced to reassess their views because Mormon women are increasingly supporting households, marrying later and less frequently, and having fewer children."
“The great unfinished business in the church is gender equality,” Joanna Brooks, an English professor at San Diego State University who often writes about her experiences as a Mormon woman, told the Times. “An increasing number of young Mormon women are growing up in a world where they not only can work, but have to work, and they are operating 12 hours a day in contexts where gender is irrelevant, but in a church structure where all financial and theological decisions are made by men. This will just stop making sense.”