Elder Marvin J. Ashton, the newest member of the Council of the Twelve, is a whole man. In the true classical sense, a whole man is an individual who cultivates his mind, his spirit, and his body. Without development in each of these areas, he isn’t considered complete.
Elder Ashton began his special development while he was still quite young. During his high school years he helped his father in the family hardware store and lumber business. Whether waiting on customers or unloading kegs of nails, he was learning the value of hard work—a lesson he has not forgotten to this day.
After high school he enrolled in college, going to school half a day and working the other half. He graduated with honors in business administration.
His work in school and for his father didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for sports. Tall enough and good enough to play M Men basketball when he was sixteen, he practiced with the team for two years without playing a league game because the rules required participants to be eighteen. Young Marvin’s interest in basketball, tennis, and track continued into adulthood; and he is the man largely responsible for developing our present-day MIA athletic programs for golf, tennis, volleyball, and softball, in addition to working with the worldwide Church basketball program.
Always more than a spectator, Elder Ashton still regularly participates in sports with his family. He jogs a mile a day and tries to find time to play tennis twice a week, even if it has to be worked in between 10 P.M. and midnight under the lights in the Salt Lake Tennis House.
His son Steve said, “When I was a young boy, Dad said, ‘Steve, I’ll give you $100 the day you can beat me in tennis.’ I’m 23 now, and to this day I’ve never been able to do it.”
Following the example of his general authority father and being conscientious about his own Church work helped to develop Elder Ashton’s spiritual side throughout his growing years. After he had earned his college degree, saving enough money while in school to support himself, he left on a mission to Great Britain in 1937. He was twenty-one at the time.
President Hugh B. Brown, Elder Ashton’s mission president, said, “Elder Ashton was always what and where he should be.”
After he returned from his mission, Elder Ashton married Norma Berntsen, and they began to build their life together.
Elder Ashton’s associates, whether in the Church, in politics, or in business, often remark about his good judgment and decision-making ability. His development as a whole person has served him well because it has provided him with a broad pool of interest and experience that gives him great perspective. From such a background he can view each problem in its relationship to the whole and then make an effective decision.
While a Utah state senator, Elder Ashton took the lead in sponsoring much-needed legislation for juvenile and adult detention facilities. A prominent legislator said of his conduct, “He’s one senator who, once he has weighed the facts and made up his mind, will never yield or change his vote, regardless of how heavy or intense the pressure.”
Elder Ashton isn’t known for the volume or complexity of his words. Like the classical whole man, Elder Ashton speaks softly, and his thoughts and counsel are lucid, direct, and clearly and simply expressed. Like the Savior, he places a premium on communication rather than self-expression.
After listening to Elder Ashton during one of his recent stake conference visits, a young man wrote, “That guy thinks like we do. He doesn’t try to snow you with a lot of big words. For an old guy, he’s on the ball.”
His son John said, “Very often at family home evenings, Dad says less than anyone, but he surely listens. A week or a month later, he often reminds us of what we have said.”
Described as a loving husband and father, Elder Ashton has always been able to admit when he was in error.
“The occasion I can remember most in my growing-up days was when Dad had punished me for something he thought I had done. I’ll never forget the night he came to my bedroom, sat on the side of my bed and asked my forgiveness because he found out that he had misjudged me,” said his daughter Jonne.
A son of God, a loving husband and father, a friend of youth, a special witness for Jesus Christ—this is the man Marvin J. Ashton. His life is an expression of his testimony, and it typifies the classic ideal of what life should be—beautiful, absolute, simple, and everlasting.