President Ashton takes the helm of the Church’s online learning program following BYU–Pathway’s current president, Elder Clark G. Gilbert, being sustained as a General Authority Seventy during the April 2021 general conference and appointed the new commissioner of the Church Educational System.
Both President Ashton’s appointment at BYU–Pathway and Elder Gilbert’s appointment as commissioner will become effective Aug. 1, 2021.
President Ashton comes to the post well-equipped, having served as BYU–Pathway’s field operations vice president since 2018. He also previously led an educational startup company focused on correctional and life skills education and served in the Sunday School general presidency from 2015 to 2019.
In a devotional address to Ensign College students just a few weeks ago, President Ashton spoke of how desire is essential to obtaining higher education but that desire combined with faith in Jesus Christ can aid in overcoming a lack of opportunity and “our own doubts and weaknesses.”
BYU–Pathway Worldwide specializes in providing opportunities to the “hidden many,” as Elder Gilbert has called them, or those who have lacked opportunity or confidence in obtaining education.
Launched in 2009 at BYU–Idaho with 50 students in three pilot sites, BYU–Pathway now serves over 50,000 students in 152 countries and all 50 U.S. states. As the Church’s online program, BYU–Pathway is bringing education, both spiritual and secular, to women and men who would never be able to set foot on a college campus.
In 2018, President Ashton told the Church News how in his role within BYU–Pathway he has seen the positive solutions it provides in areas throughout the world.
“Students’ testimonies have become stronger, they are able to rely upon the Lord and they are learning by study and by faith,” he said. “They also gain a confidence and a large number of them continue on to receive additional education that turns into getting a better job.
“I see spiritual boosts, confidence boosts, learned leadership skills, individuals making more money and on the path to get a degree. I see them becoming leaders in their homes and leaders in the Church and in the community.”
President Ashton holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brigham Young University and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School.
Prior to serving in the Sunday School general presidency, he served as president of the Texas Houston South Mission and is a former bishop, bishopric counselor, high councilor, elders quorum president and counselor, gospel doctrine teacher, and missionary in the Peru Lima South Mission.
In his Church News profile when he was called to the Sunday School general presidency, President Ashton spoke of being called to preside over the Texas Houston South Mission just three weeks after moving back to Utah and with his wife about to deliver their seventh child.
Although the timing may not have been ideal, President Ashton and his wife, Sister Melinda Ashton, said that by putting their trust in the Lord, they were able to feel the Lord sustaining them.
“As we put ourselves in the hands of the Lord, He sustains us and makes us happy,” President Ashton said. “Happiness comes from doing it the Lord’s way.”
Brian Kent Ashton was born in Provo, Utah, and married Melinda Earl in the St. George Utah Temple in 1996. They are the parents of seven children.