A number of LDS Apostles have not been shy about expressing their personal views on the topic of evolution; even if those presentations have necessitated (at times) extraordinary caveats, i.e. ‘The Law and the Light’. However, President Monson’s distancing from and (IMO) out-right repudiation of those ideas is less well known.
It is hackneyed to note that President Monson is famous for moralistic anecdotes. However the polysemic character of these stories is rarely considered.
As an illustration recall with me, if you will, a classic tale from the Monson oeuvre. At a Stake Conference, President (then Elder) Monson notices a young lad on the front row who is insistently trying to ‘follow his leaders’. In an attempt to test the mettle of the young scallywag, President Monson utilises one of his now infamous techniques of child-control: Ear-wiggling.
We all have fond memories of chortling together listening to that story and yet I think, perhaps, we have missed the profound significance of what President Monson is teaching us.
Jerry Coyne in his popular and lucid account of the evidence for evolution notes this: ‘we have three muscles under our scalp that attach to our ears. In most individuals they’re useless, but some people can use them to wiggle their ears.’ The muscles are a vestigial trait which continues from our evolutionary predecessors. They link us with those other beings in the animal kingdom who can move their ears as a means of detecting predators or locate their young. As Coyne observes, ‘if you can wiggle your ears, you’re demonstrating evolution’.
It is this unsaid sermon on evolution that provides the devastating blow to anti-evolution views. President Monson’s ear-wiggling places him among others in the Church, who can proclaim ‘I am a Mormon and an ape’.