Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve died on February 25, 1994, after faithfully magnifying his calling as a special witness of Christ. “God is our Father. Jesus is the Christ,” Elder Ashton once said. “I hope I will be able to declare these truths in mildness, conviction, and great impact all the days of my life.”
Elder Ashton was born on May 16, 1915, to Marvin O. and Rachel Grace Jeremy Ashton. As a child he was known as a peacemaker. His sister Elly has said, “I’ve never seen him lose his temper or be mean to anybody.” He learned to work hard, raising vegetables on a two-acre farm. Later he worked in the hardware department of his father’s lumber mill.
From 1937 to 1939 Elder Ashton served a mission to Great Britain, where he was associate editor of the Millennial Star.
On August 22, 1940, he married Norma Berntson in the Salt Lake Temple. They had two sons and two daughters.
Elder Ashton grew up enjoying sports. As a missionary in England he was captain of a championship basketball team. He especially loved tennis, which he began playing at the age of twelve. In 1954, he and his wife won the mixed doubles championship in the all-Church tennis tournament.
In 1948 he was called to the YMMIA (Young Men) General Board. In September 1969 he was named managing director of the Church Social Service Department, and in October of that year he was sustained as an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. On April 6, 1972, he was sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Elder Ashton’s voice was always one of compassion and hope for those with sorrows, even as a result of their own mistakes. He once said, “I’m not so concerned with what you’ve done or where you’ve been as I am with where you’re going from here.”
He often visited prisons. A young man once approached Elder Ashton in the temple and reminded him that they had met in the Utah State Prison. “You came down among us and shook my hand!” the young man recalled, “When I realized that an Apostle of the Lord would shake the hand of a man like me, then I knew that I must be worth something.”
“An understanding, loving heart is the pinnacle of all human emotions,” Elder Ashton said in a General Conference address (Ensign, November 1988, page 16), He didn’t realize that he was describing himself.