Monson is Pro-Evolution: The Unsaid Sermon

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’.


  1. brilliant

  2. I prefer to back evolution by using myself as an example of the forward progress of the human species. The typical adult human has 32 teeth. I only have 27. One adult tooth was removed a number of years ago, so that doesn’t really count, though, so I would be more accurate to say that, as an adult, I had 28 teeth. Why not four more? Because I, like a steadily growing number of modern humans, do not have the third set of molars (aka, wisdom teeth).

    Huzzah for evolution!

  3. #2: Alex, in Evolution, there would be no reason for you not have your wisdom teeth (?) Evolution put them there.

  4. Bob,
    Alex is a mutant. Get him quick before those weirdos at Xavier’s School for the Gifted do.

  5. #4: I think he still has his killing Canine teeth that should keep him out.

  6. “President Monson’s ear-wiggling places him among others in the Church, who can proclaim ‘I am a Mormon and an ape’. ”

    When we get goosebumps, we silently agree.

  7. Please tell me this post is a joke and you’re not really inferring a stance on evolution from an ear wiggling anecdote.

  8. Evolution gave humans the third set of molars for chewing leaves a long time. Evolution has given some humans the lack of this teeth, because the human jaw isn’t really made for them anymore.

    Evolution: the process that just keeps giving and giving and giving some more.

    And yes, I am a mutant. I can also see ultra-violet light, through the removal of a congenital cataract in one eye.

  9. Mark Brown says:

    Aaron, I wiggle my ears in your direction. This is awesome.

  10. Really? This is a new low for by common consent.

  11. Thanks for playin’, Jared…

  12. Cynthia L. says:

    Haha, this is hilarious. Very nice, Aaron.

    Karen, Jared: lighten up.

  13. Can’t add to Daniel’s and Cynthia’s summations. Hilariously brilliant!

  14. #8: Alex
    It is my understanding Evolution selected for Humans to have a larger brain bone area at the cost of their jaw size(?) The pain of wisdom teeth comes from the smaller jaw. I see nothing TODAY that is a selection for poor humans not to have these teeth. More crudely, you will live to have sex if you do or don’t have Wisdom teeth.

  15. this will never be topped. nice.

  16. Sorry, I wasn’t trying to be a dunce, I’ve just heard too many people say crazy things that they were totally serious about. I’ll keep my mouht shut now.

  17. Absolutly brilliant, I often use BCC as a springboard to generate discussion in Elders Quorum.

    I can’t wait for tomorrow morning.

  18. Aaron, this is brilliant. At last, direct, irrefutable evidence that Pres. Monson believes in evolution! I’m doing a dance (derived from ancient hominid ancestors). The subtext of his talk unmistakable.

  19. How far do you see into the UV range?

  20. Antoinette says:

    This is a great post!
    Evolution should be taught, and it shouldn’t be taught that it’s oppositional to Creationism, as many believe. There’s scientific proof arguing for evolution that I certainly believe; just like the Big Bang Theory. When I was little, my parents always joked with me that it’s perfectly possible! God clapped his hands and the sound set off a fine mess!
    Of course, some members of my family think that I can’t believe in God and believe the facts about Evolution in addition to wanting to convert to the Church…so I guess I’m going to hell, then. Nice knowing y’all at BCC. *sniff

  21. Oh dear, I can’t wiggle my ears…evolution has passed me by

  22. I once took my wife to a fireside in Logan, Utah. Thousands were gathered in the USU basketball arena, chatting and waiting for the meeting to start. Suddenly the entire crowd went quiet and we all stood in reverent silence while President Joseph Fielding Smith entered the arena and found his seat. It’s been more than forty years, but I’m almost certain I saw President Smith wiggle his ears that day.

  23. R. Gary, I’m sure you’re right. Smith is often wrongly identified as anti-evolution, largely because of _Man, His Origin and Destiny_. But if you read page 179 of that book carefully, you’ll find the acrostic down the left side of the page which says, “I’m just kidding, suckers!”

  24. Chris Coleman says:

    I sit down to pee, what does this mean?

  25. Chris, it means your mom didn’t like to clean up after you so taught you that way

  26. ByTheRules says:

    Admit it people; you have all just rolled your eyes up and treid to wiggle your ears….

    My ability to wiggle my ears is an acquired talent. I guess that means that for me, I have had stepped evolution. Either that, or my ontogeny is just catching up with my phylogeny.

  27. Persecuted Mormon says:


    Your definitely a mutant, but I don’t think there’s a been a selection for the lack of wisdom teeth. In other words, I don’t think the ladies are currently looking for dudes with no wisdom teeth as a biologically desired trait to be passed on to their posterity.

    Just sayin’

  28. Bob and Persecuted Mormon: I got married, and I attribute my general mutanthood to this fact.

    Stephen M: I have no idea. I only know I can see UV because I had my cataract removed when I was eight or so, and was not able to receive a replacement lens. As a result, UV hits my left optic nerve, instead of being filtered out by a lens. All this really means for me is that I have to wear an eye patch when I go to places with blacklights because the UV causes insanely painful headaches. I didn’t know it was the UV until a college professor was explaining how the human lens filters it, and I asked about my condition. Ultimately, it is totally useless other than being able to throw out there, along with the fact that I was hit by lightning when I was 14.

  29. @27: I have noticed a sexual selection by female against men who have lost ALL their teeth.

  30. Alex,

    So, do things look significantly different when you look at them with the left vs. right eye? For instance, if you look at flowers, are there patterns that are apparent with the eye missing the lens that you can’t see with the other eye?

  31. “Really? This is a new low for by common consent.”

    Gosh, and here I was thinking it was a new high…


  32. Anyone on the list know Pres Monson, so we can get his personal take on this?

    BTW, I also was not born with wisdom teeth. The newly evolved among us have chosen to not throw away our precious wisdom…. The rest of you just are not as evolved!

  33. #31: No one is born with wisdom teeth.

  34. kristine N – With no lens, there is nothing to focus light. I am functionally blind in my left eye (the one that had the cataract) unless I close my right eye. Then I can see colours and contrasts, but no real shapes or patterns. And no, I can’t actually describe what ultraviolet looks like.

    Bob – Most humans have wisdom teeth that grown in as part of their second (adult) set of teeth. This second set is programmed by birth, unless you are a mutant like myself or Rameumpton. So while it is true that no one is born WITH the third set of molars, those who have them were programmed at birth to have them.

  35. #34: Alex, I agree_ I was just having fun. I had a wisdom tooth that laid flat under my gums for over 40 years. I had to look at it everytime I had x-rays. At about 43, it erupted OH_The PAIN! It had not enamel, and lasted only a weekend.

  36. So, is this author trying to be ironic in his post? Am I the slow one in class who didn’t pick up on the humor?