With the death of Elder Marvin J. Ashton in Salt Lake City on Feb. 25, a valiant servant of the Master has completed his lifetime of service on this mortal earth.
And in his passing, Elder Ashton has left deep imprints in the sands of life.His speeches in general conference since he was called first as an Assistant to the Twelve and then later as a member of the Council of the Twelve were filled with hope and inspiration. As he encouraged members to live righteously and to minister to all of God's children, he reached out to all people.
The downtrodden, the discouraged, the imprisoned, those who lacked self-esteem, and those struggling with misfortune always had a friend in Elder Marvin J. Ashton.
"In the kingdom of our Heavenly Father, no [oneT is a nobody,' " Elder Ashton said in one general conference address. "God help us to realize that one of our greatest responsibilities and privileges is to lift a self-labelednobody' to a `somebody'. . . ."
Elder Ashton had that ability to lift us all, to make us want to be better members of the Church and of our communities.
"People must always count more than programs," he said, and to him that philosophy was more than just words. He lived it and his speeches reflected it. Often, his speeches were about everyday problems faced by ordinary people.
Elder Ashton clearly exemplified in his relationships with others the counsel of the Lord to Samuel: "Look not on his countenance, or on the height on his stature . . . for the Lord seeth not as man seeth, for man looked on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." (1 Sam. 16:7.)
This tall, imposing man with a big heart had the ability to see the good in others.
Elder Ashton lived a busy, well-rounded life. He believed in hard work, an ethic he learned from his parents, Marvin O. and Rachel Grace Jeremy Ashton.
He was a successful businessman before his call as a General Authority and afterward served as board member and chairman of several corporations. He served for four years in the Utah State Senate and spearheaded legislation for improvement of juvenile detention facilities. He was the first head of the Church Social Services Department, and found much satisfaction in working with the various facets of the department, including Indian placement, youth guidance, unwed mothers, adoptions, alcoholics, prisoners and those with social and emotional problems. Through his efforts, the Church established a prison program where LDS families could meet with prisoners in family home evenings.
Elder Ashton gave long and devoted service to the Boy Scouts of America, which service underscored his love of working with youth. He served in national, regional and local Boy Scout executive positions. As a youth, he earned the Eagle Scout award and later was the recipient of the Silver Beaver and Silver Antelope awards. In 1988 he was given the prestigious "Distinguished Eagle" award for his "truly distinguished career."
Elder Ashton was a great advocate of physical fitness.
On one occasion, he said, "You owe it to yourself to keep fit. No matter how busy or how involved you are, you should have some type of physical program to keep the body in tune." Like in everything else, Elder Ashton lived what he counseled. Tennis was his great love, which he started playing when he was about 12. His favorite tennis partner was his wife, Norma, whom he married Aug. 22, 1940, in the Salt Lake Temple. Throughout his life, up until the time his health prevented him from continuing, Elder Ashton somehow, despite his tremendously busy schedule, found time to play tennis a couple of times a week.
Before his call to full-time Church service, Elder Ashton served for 21 years on the YMMIA general board and in the general superintendency, and his responsibilities largely reflected his enthusiasm and enjoyment of athletics and activities. During these years, he supervised and promoted the all-Church athletic program, and was in charge of music, dance, drama and speech programs.
His responsibilities as a member of the Twelve took him to the far reaches of the world. Whether he was ministering in developing countries where the gospel was new or in areas where the Church has long been established, he offered love, encouragement and direction to all.
Elder Ashton's tall shadow has been cast around the globe, and members of the Church everywhere have been greatly blessed by his tireless and dedicated service. Who can measure the stature of such a person?
We will miss Elder Marvin J. Ashton. We will miss his leadership. We pray for the Lord's choicest blessings on his wife and family, whom he placed first in his life.
Elder Ashton has gone on to a great reward in the kingdom of his Father.