5 Highlights for “The Imperfect Harvest” by Elder Stanfill

by | Apr 18, 2023

Wheat against the blue sky

5 Quotes Plus Discussion-Promoting Questions

See also Teaching Helps

Apart from President Nelson, this talk got the most votes in the April 2023 poll. It’s no wonder, this talk is SO GOOD. I thought, “Bravo, Elder Stanfill! you just addressed something we all need to discuss — perfectionism and self-esteem at church and home.” This is an excellent discussion for your group.

I love how he relates it all to the Savior—beautifully done!

You can find his full talk here. Unless you opt to spend a lot of time on a particular quote, try to pick around 2 questions per quote. Choose the questions that resonate the most with you and make a meaningful discussion for your group of personalities. These highlights and questions fit with Lesson Template 1 or Template 2. You can also check out several other General Conference Talks with 5 Highlights.

All blue quotes by Elder Vern P. Stanfill (unless otherwise noted).

Quote #1 (harvest story)

Wow! This opening story is worth retelling. It’s long but can create an excellent foundation for the other quotes and discussions. Perhaps assign someone ahead of time to read this story or paraphrase it. (If I were teaching this lesson, I would have them read it word-for-word.)

As a young boy, I learned to love the dramatic changes in the seasons of the year in southwest Montana, where I grew up. My favorite season was fall—the time of the harvest. Our family hoped and prayed that our months of hard work would be rewarded with a bountiful harvest. My parents worried over the weather, the health of animals and crops, and many other things over which they had little control.

As I grew, I became even more aware of the urgency involved. Our livelihood depended upon the harvest. My father taught me about the equipment we used to harvest grain. I watched as he would move the machinery into the field, cut a small swath of grain, and then check behind the combine to make sure that as much grain as possible landed in the holding tank and was not thrown out with the chaff. He repeated this exercise several times, adjusting the machine each time. I ran alongside and pawed through the chaff with him and pretended that I knew what I was doing.

After he was satisfied with the adjustments to the machine, I found some kernels of grain in the chaff on the ground and presented them to him with a critical look. I will not forget what my father said to me: “It is good enough and the best that this machine can do.” Not really satisfied with his explanation, I pondered the imperfections of this harvest.

A short time later, when the weather turned cold in the evenings, I watched thousands of migrating swans, geese, and ducks descend onto the fields to nourish themselves on their long journey south. They ate the leftover grain from our imperfect harvest. God had perfected it. And not a kernel was lost.

This is a vibrant visual account of God’s capacity despite our incapacities. We are saved by Jesus Christ’s grace after all we can do. Sometimes we must embrace and celebrate that grace rather than attach a stigma to it because we have to tap into it. Or wear His grace like a consolation prize because we weren’t good enough.

We can skip the discussion questions here and go right to quote #2, which is a continuation of this story:

Quote #2 (perfectionism)

Elder Stanfill goes on to say:

It is often a temptation in our world and even within the culture of the Church to obsess about perfection. Social media, unrealistic expectations, and often our own self-criticism create feelings of inadequacy—that we are not good enough and never will be. Some even misunderstand the invitation of the Savior to “be ye therefore perfect.”

Remember that perfectionism is not the same as being perfected in Christ. Perfectionism requires an impossible, self-inflicted standard that compares us to others. This causes guilt and anxiety and can make us want to withdraw and isolate ourselves.

See “Perfectionism”

Please click to see a definition of perfectionism below.

Possible discussion questions: How would you describe perfectionism to a friend? By a show of hands, have you ever been affected by perfectionism? Does anyone mind giving an example from their own life? Can we negatively affect ourselves, our family members, or others by trying to appear perfect, superior, and/or without problems? Men are that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:25) Does perfectionism bring happiness into one’s life?

Quote #3 (comparison)

Elder Stanfill nailed this one with candor and accuracy.

I have learned, however, that just as perfectionism is not the same as being perfected in Christ, self-comparison is not the same as emulation. When we compare ourselves to others, there can be only two results. Either we will see ourselves as better than others and become judgmental and critical of them, or we will see ourselves as less than others and become anxious, self-critical, and discouraged.

[And I might add, we may be critical and judgmental of others to pull them down or hold their heads down in a mistaken effort to make ourselves look and feel better.]

Comparing ourselves to others is rarely productive, not uplifting, and sometimes downright depressing. In fact, these comparisons can be spiritually destructive, preventing us from receiving the spiritual help we need. On the other hand, emulating those we respect who demonstrate Christlike attributes can be instructive and uplifting and can help us become better disciples of Jesus Christ.

Possible discussion questions: What can we do when we notice others are being judgmental and critical?

My answer: “Don’t put them on the spot or make a public display- you increase the ill will all around. Put in a good word for the person spoken of, change the topic, or kindly excuse yourself. – Once, someone said something quite critical of someone I minister to, and I said cheerfully and sincerely, “Well – I can’t go there; I’m called to be their ministering sister, so my job is advocacy and compassion.” that way I kept the censure just on me rather than hinting that was their obligation too. It leaves them free to adjust on their own.

The prophet called us all to advocacy, compassion, and good reports.

My dear brothers and sisters, how we treat each other really matters! How we speak to and about others at home, at church, at work, and online really matters. Today, I am asking us to interact with others in a higher, holier way. Please listen carefully. “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” that we can say about another person—whether to his face or behind her back—that should be our standard of communication. (President Nelson – April 2023)

More possible discussion questions: What is the difference between self-comparison and emulation? (One is a lot more peaceful than the other!) How can self-comparison keep us from feeling the Spirit? Is it sometimes hard to admit that others are doing well?

Quote #4 (perfect harvest)

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught:

“I believe the Savior Jesus Christ would want you to see, feel, and know that He is your strength. That with His help, there are no limits to what you can accomplish. That your potential is limitless. He would want you to see yourself the way He sees you. And that is very different from the way the world sees you. …

“He gives power to the weary; and to those who feel powerless, He increases strength.”

We must remember that whatever our best-but-imperfect offering is, the Savior can make it perfect. No matter how insignificant our efforts may seem, we must never underestimate the Savior’s power. A simple word of kindness, a brief but sincere ministering visit, or a Primary lesson lovingly taught can, with the Savior’s help, provide comfort, soften hearts, and change eternal lives. Our clumsy efforts can lead to miracles, and in the process, we can participate in a perfect harvest.

Possible discussion questions: Have you ever had your whole day turn around because of a simple kindness someone offered you? Can small acts have significant effects? What are some simple things we can do to minister to each other?

  • Say hello at Church
  • Give a hug
  • Have a chat
  • Learn family names
  • Send a fun text
  • Call on the phone
  • Deliver treats
  • Find common interests
  • Pray for them by name
  • Share a gospel quote

More possible questions: Is it essential to be intentional with small kindnesses at home or with our extended family? Do we sometimes get impressions to say or do something simple for someone?

Quote #5 (closing statement)

Elder Dale G. Renlund said, “You don’t have to be perfect, but we need you, because everybody who’s willing can do something.”

And President Russell M. Nelson teaches us, “The Lord loves effort.”

The Savior stands ready to accept our humble offerings and perfect them through His grace. With Christ, there is no imperfect harvest. We must have the courage to believe that His grace is for us—that He will help us, rescue us from the depths when we falter, and perfect our less-than-perfect efforts.

Possible closing question: What stood out most from the lesson today?


Summarize class discussion highlights and/or share your testimony and feelings about Elder Stanfill’s talk. Thank your class for their excellent contributions and insights.

Final Comment

Thank you for preparing yourself to share this inspired lesson with your group of Saints. You greatly bless others with your efforts to research and reach for inspiration. I’m so glad you found this site today. Put the quotes in any order that makes sense to you. Teach with confidence, and if you would like some tips on how to feel more confident while teaching – try “9 Tips for More Class Participation.

Additional Notes

A Helpful Definition of Perfectionism

“People with perfectionism [the need to be or appear to be perfect] hold themselves to impossibly high standards. They think what they do is never good enough.”

[I might add perfectionism also shows up as comparing yourself to those who, unfortunately, hold up the public image of holier-than-thou or more–put-together-than-you. It’s a big social head trip in some wards and branches. “Holier-than-thou” and “more-put-together-than-you” harms those who project it and those who buy into it (spiritually and emotionally).]

“Some people mistakenly believe that perfectionism is a healthy motivator, but that’s not the case. Perfectionism [plus comparison to others’ self-illusions of perfectionism] can make you feel unhappy with your life. It can lead to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and self-harm. Eventually, it can also lead you to stop trying to succeed. Even mild cases can interfere with your quality of life, affecting your personal relationships, education, or work.

Perfectionism can affect young people as well as adults. Children and teenagers are often driven to be overachievers in their schoolwork as well as activities such as sports, clubs, community service, and jobs. This can lead to an obsession with success. Ultimately, it can interfere with the ability to achieve it.” (From Healthline.com – “What is perfectionism”?)

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  1. Linda Garland

    looking forward to this wseeks lesson in Sunday School.

    • Shawnie Cannon

      And I look forward to them today! Thank you for your sweet little note.

  2. Maura

    Thank you very much for sharing your lesson plan. I was feeling stumped when I started preparing to lead a discussion on this talk. I really appreciate your suggested discussion questions!!!

    • Shawnie Cannon

      Maura, you are most welcome. I hope your lesson went well! I am grateful for teachers like you who reach to prepare wonderful content for the rest of us. So thanks yo you!

  3. David Wilson

    I am really forward to teaching this lesson Thank you for your lovely lesson plan

    • Shawnie Cannon

      You are welcome and I hope your lesson goes well – I love Elder Stanfill’s message.

  4. Caressa Collamat

    Thank you always Sister Shawn

    • Shawnie Cannon

      You are always welcome.


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