“In Memoriam: Quiet Example,” New Era, May 1994, 39
Elder Marvin J. Ashton
May 6, 1915–Feb. 25, 1994
“I have tried to be your trusted friend over the years.”
Elder Marvin J. Ashton, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, died Friday, February 25, 1994, in Salt Lake City following surgery.
Elder Ashton was the last General Authority called by President David O. McKay. Elder Ashton said he never forgot the moment. He was invited to President McKay’s apartment. “I found him advanced in years and a very weak man in physical strength. As I sat with him in the privacy of his study, his body was frail, his voice was soft, words did not come easily. … He finally said in a still voice of perfect mildness, ‘I want you to help me.’
“After leaving his office, I felt that I had a better understanding about the Savior’s calling of his associates. Whether it be on the shores of Galilee or in the shops or paths of life, I’m certain that his invitation could have been nothing more than, ‘I want you to help me in proclaiming the gospel and being special witnesses to and for me.’”
Elder Ashton served for 22 years as an Apostle, following his call on December 2, 1971. He had previously served for two years as an Assistant to the Twelve.
Marvin J. Ashton was born on May 6, 1915, in Salt Lake City to Marvin O. and Rachel Grace Jeremy Ashton. His parents taught him the value of hard work. He raised rabbits and pigeons and worked on a two-acre produce farm raising and selling fruits and vegetables. His ward didn’t have a Scout troop, so he and four friends rode their horses to a neighboring ward and participated in its Scout program, advancing to the rank of Eagle. While in high school, he helped in his father’s hardware store. He continued to work while he attended the University of Utah, where he graduated with a degree in business administration.
In 1937, Elder Ashton accepted a mission call to Great Britain. After arriving in his mission field, Elder Ashton wanted to have a “burning” testimony. After reading and rereading the Book of Mormon, he said he had an impression: “You’ve known the Church was true all your life. Get off your knees and go to work.” His testimony was not quite the lightning bolt he wanted, but his quiet kind of testimony was just as powerful.
After serving an honorable mission, Elder Ashton returned home to the girl who lived just down the street, Norma Berntson. On August 22, 1940, they were married in the Salt Lake Temple. They had four children, two sons and two daughters.
Elder Ashton became involved in assisting with the direction of the all-Church YMMIA program. He also served on the YMMIA General Board.
Elder Ashton always had great faith in people and in their ability to change. He spent many hours giving comfort to those in prison or those facing difficulties in their homes and with their families. He helped them understand that they were not hopelessly caught in the past. They could look to the future. He would say, “You can make it from where you are.”
In one of the last talks he gave, Elder Ashton expressed his admiration for the five prophets he had served with. He said, “These five prophets I have known so well have called and encouraged in a voice and spirit of perfect mildness. I pray God to help us remember true leaders always lead with mild voices, love, and persuasion.
“God is our Father, Jesus is the Christ. I hope and pray I will be able to declare these truths in mildness, conviction, and great impact all the days of my life. Listen to the gentle promptings of the Spirit. Most often our hopes and prayers are best answered by impressions of quiet relationships. Avoid the loud, noisy, boisterous sounds of the day and cleave to meaningful quiet relationships.
“I have tried to be your trusted friend over the years. I never want to shout it. I prefer to be your friend and advocate quietly but with deep love, encouragement, and respect.”