“Get married, have a quiver full of kids if you can.” That’s the commencement advice Mitt Romney delivered this past weekend to 110 new graduates of Southern Virginia University, a largely Mormon school near Lynchburg, Virginia, where many students volunteered with Romney’s failed presidential campaign.
Family values talk at a Latter Day Saints school is hardly surprising, but perhaps some of Romney’s scriptural citations were. (Read more…) In a speech peppered with admonitions that graduates should marry and start families young, he dropped in a biblical reference, Psalm 127, more often associated with another religious tradition: the Quiverfull movement.
In that Christian community, the verse Romney chose—”Children are a heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them”—has become almost synonymous with an absolutist rejection of all forms of contraception or family planning, and an embrace of what believers describe as “biblical patriarchy.” Quiverfull adherents have as many children as God will allow, describe their offspring as “arrows” in a divine army, and follow rigid gender roles in the home, where men are the spiritual leaders and women the submissive helpmeets.
Though the Mormon church is not officially anti-contraception, Romney’s use of biblical language most often associated with anti-birth-control fundamentalists is consistent. For years, conservative LDS leaders have partnered with right-wing evangelicals and Catholics on precisely this sort of “pro-family” issue. In one right-wing coalition, the World Congress of Families, a Mormon think tank leader coauthored a statement of “pro-family” principles, “The Natural Family: A Manifesto,” that echoes Romney’s language.