Elder Stanfill Trusts in the Tender Mercies of the Lord

Contributed By Ryan Morgenegg, Church News staff writer

  • 21 May 2015

Elder Vern P. Stanfill of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Alicia C. Stanfill.  Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Article Highlights

  • Elder Stanfill learned the principles of hard work and trusting in the Lord while growing up on the family ranch.
  • He believes the Lord guides our lives with tender mercies, and that has helped him and his wife raise their four daughters.
  • He insists that he and his family are not perfect people, but the Lord has helped them in their weaknesses.

“My wife and I are not perfect people. We don’t have a perfect family. We are just ordinary people who have tried to live our lives day by day and allow the Lord to be part of it.” —Elder Vern P. Stanfill of the Seventy

“There are no such things as coincidences in life,” said Elder Vern P. Stanfill, a newly called member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. “Things happen for a purpose and the Lord guides our lives with His tender mercies.” Born in Townsend, Montana, on August 8, 1957, Elder Stanfill is the third of four children, with two older brothers and a younger sister. His parents, Peggy and Jed Stanfill, taught him the gospel and principles of hard work while working on the family ranch.

Most days growing up, Vern Stanfill would spend the whole day outside playing or working on tasks that needed to be completed on the ranch. “He learned a remarkable amount of self-discipline growing up,” said his wife of 35 years, Alicia Cox Stanfill. “He learned how to follow through on a project until the job was done.”

At a young age, Elder Stanfill said he developed a strong testimony of Jesus Christ, which he never doubted. It kept him strong in the gospel. After a year at BYU, Elder Stanfill served a full-time mission in Toulouse, France. He then returned to BYU to finish his degree.

At BYU, he pursued a degree in agricultural economics to learn how to run the business side of the family ranch. He met his wife, a convert from Newport Beach, California, at BYU. They married December 17, 1980, in the Salt Lake Temple, moved to Montana after graduation, and started an eternal partnership.

Back home in Townsend, Montana, Elder Stanfill managed the family ranch. He and Sister Stanfill have four daughters. “We all had projects to complete and worked on the ranch together,” he said. Sister Stanfill remarked, “We lived by a principle called ‘best for last.’ On Saturdays and during the summer, we all worked on the ranch first and when we were done with the work we spent time doing fun activities together.”

In 1998 Elder Stanfill sold the ranch and moved his family to Bigfork, Montana. There he became involved in managing the family financial portfolio. Elder Stanfill said, “I have been very blessed in my life to do a variety of interesting and rewarding things. I learned that while certain things can seem outside our level of expertise or understanding, most can be learned with a little work.”

One of Elder Stanfill’s passions is flying both fixed-wing and rotor aircraft. His love of aviation led him to qualify and possess a commercial license for airplanes and helicopters. His favorite airplane to fly is the Swiss-made Pilatus PC-12; for helicopters, he enjoys the Bell Jet Ranger.

As his life unfolded, Elder Stanfill had opportunities to serve in the Church. The local branch he grew up in eventually became a ward, and he served as a bishop and stake president in Montana. To nonmembers in his ranching community he was often known respectfully as the “preacher” or “Bishop Vern” because of his involvement in spiritual matters.

“The hand of the Lord is present in our lives despite our weaknesses,” he said. “My wife and I are not perfect people. We don’t have a perfect family. We are just ordinary people who have tried to live our lives day by day and allow the Lord to be part of it.” He shared a story to illustrate his point.

Returning home late one night after attending a high council meeting, Elder Stanfill felt a prompting to check on one of his daughters. Typically he wouldn’t check on his daughter at the late hour, but he followed the prompting. “I approached her room and saw that she was still awake,” said Elder Stanfill. “She was cleaning her room, and I asked her if there was something the matter. She broke into tears and told me she was upset about some friends who were starting to make bad decisions, and she was worried about them.”

Elder Stanfill listened to his daughter’s concerns and offered to pray with her. They knelt down together and said a prayer. His daughter wondered how he knew to come and speak to her. It was a comfort to her to know that Heavenly Father cared enough to send her father to counsel and console her. It was a powerful experience that blessed both of them.

A strongly held belief of Elder Stanfill’s is that the Lord places people in the path of individuals to teach and help them become closer to God. “Many individuals, both members of the Church and those who are not members, have taught me how to become better. I love to learn from others. It is interesting and remarkable when we approach our day-to-day relationships with a sincere interest to learn from others.”

Elder Stanfill expressed that even though there are many administrative aspects to Church leadership, his favorite part of the work is getting out and ministering to people one on one. He said, “Over the years I’ve learned to be sensitive to other people’s needs. Sitting across from somebody, showing them love and compassion, and inviting them to follow Jesus Christ is wonderful. Though I am basically a shy person, the gospel has taught me to extend myself and think of others.”

Concerning engagement in the latter-day work, Elder Stanfill shared the importance of binding the heart and mind to that work by sharing a passage from Doctrine and Covenants 43:9. “And thus ye shall become instructed in the law of my church, and be sanctified by that which ye have received, and ye shall bind yourselves to act in all holiness before me.” He explained, “We have to bind ourselves to something. … In our family we have tried to bind ourselves to a holy purpose.”

Now living in St. George, Utah, and Montana, Elder Stanfill and his wife purchased a motor home and were planning on doing some traveling, but this call to full-time service in the First Quorum of the Seventy will change that. “Do you know anyone who wants to buy a motor home?” Elder Stanfill joked. Full-time service to the Lord is humbling and requires sacrifice, but Elder and Sister Stanfill feel prepared.

“Over the years I have seen my husband refined, softened, and blessed with a greater capacity for love and compassion,” said Sister Stanfill. Elder Stanfill was sustained in general conference on April 4.

Biographical information

Family: Born August, 8, 1957, in Townsend, Montana, to Perry Jed and Peggy Lou Stanfill; married Alicia Cox in the Salt Lake Temple on December 17, 1980; four children: Amanda, Katherine, Claire (Joel) Wagstaff, Meredith (Matthew) Durrant; two grandchildren.

Education: Received a bachelor of science degree in agricultural economics from Brigham Young University.

Employment: Helped manage family’s ranch in Montana; managed a portfolio of real estate and financial instruments, as well as structuring philanthropic and estate matters.

Church service: Full-time mission in Toulouse, France, elders quorum president, bishop, high councilor, stake president, and Area Seventy. He was serving in the Sixth Quorum of the Seventy at the time of his call to the First Quorum of the Seventy.