I had the special honor and privilege of being the last General Authority that President David O. McKay called before his death. I recall with fear and trembling the impressions I can never forget as I visited with him in his Hotel Utah apartment by appointment. He was advanced in years and very weak in physical strength. As I sat with him in the privacy of his study, his body was frail, his voice was soft, and words did not come easily. After sitting in uncomfortable silence waiting for him to compose himself enough to advise me as to the purpose of the appointment and visit, he finally said in a still voice of perfect mildness, “I want you to help me.” That was my invitation, that was my call to be a General Authority. That was one of my unforgettable quiet experiences with President David O. McKay.
I will always be grateful to him because he quietly called me, expected me, and wanted me to perform special service with him. I left my occupation and former business activities and responsibilities to help him as a prophet. Yes, I tremble today in remembering how he called me with a whisper that pierced my soul.
Quoting Harold B. Lee:
“We had a very grievous case that had to come before the high council and the stake presidency which resulted in the excommunication of a man who had harmed a lovely young girl. After nearly an all-night session which resulted in that action, I went to my office rather weary the next morning to be confronted by a brother of this man whom we had had on trial the night before. This man said, “I want to tell you that my brother wasn’t guilty of what you charged him with.”
“How do you know he wasn’t guilty?” I asked.
“Because I prayed, and the Lord told me he
was innocent,” the man answered.
I asked him to come into the office and we sat down, and I asked, “Would you mind if I ask you a few personal questions?” He said, “Certainly not.”
“How old are you?”
“What priesthood do you hold?” He said he thought he was a teacher. “Do you keep the Word of Wisdom?” and he said, “Well, no.” He used tobacco, which was obvious.
“Do you pay your tithing?”
He said, “No”–and he didn’t intend to as long as that blankety-blank-blank man was bishop of [his ward.]
I said, “Do you attend your priesthood meetings?”
He replied, “No, sir,” and he didn’t intend to as long as that man was bishop.
“You don’t attend your sacrament meetings either?”
“Do you have your family prayers?” and he said no.
“Do you study the scriptures?” He said well, his eyes were bad and he couldn’t read very much.
I then said to him: “In my home I have a beautiful instrument called a radio. When everything is in good working order we can dial to a certain station and pick up a speaker or the voice of a singer all the way across the continent. . . . But, after we had used it for a long time, the little delicate instruments or electrical devices on the inside called radio tubes began to wear out. . . . The radio may sit there looking quite like it did before, but because of what has happened on the inside, we can hear nothing.”
“Now,” I said, “you and I have within our souls something like what might be said to be a counterpart of those radio tubes. We might have what we call a “go-to-sacrament-meeting” tube, “keep-the-Word-of-Wisdom” tube, “pay-your-tithing” tube, “have-your-family-prayers” tube, “read-the-Scriptures” tube, and, as one of the most important that might be said to be the master tube of our whole soul, we might call the “keep-yourselves-morally-clean” tube. If one of these becomes worn out by disuse or inactivity–if we fail to keep the commandments of God–it has the same effect upon our spiritual selves that a worn-out tube has in a radio.”
“Now then,” I said, “fifteen of the best-living men in the Pioneer Stake prayed last night. They heard the evidence and every man was united in saying that your brother was guilty. Now, you, who do none of these things, you say you prayed, and you got an opposite answer. How would you explain that?”
Then this man gave an answer that I think was a classic. He said, “Well, President Lee, I think I must have gotten my answer from the wrong source.” And, you know, that’s just as great a truth as we can have. We get our answers from the source of the power we list to obey. If we’re following the ways of the Devil, we’ll get answers from the Devil. If we’re keeping the commandments of God, we’ll get our answers from God. [BYU devotional, Harold B. Lee, 15 October 1952; emphasis added]
An unforgettable and frightening experience I once had with President Lee was when he invited me to come to his home to participate in giving a blessing to a very sick mutual friend. As we gathered with a few family members, President Lee asked me if I would anoint the brother’s head with consecrated oil. This I did humbly and in a spirit of inadequacy. I had never before had the opportunity of having this rich spiritual experience of having a prophet of God seal an anointing that I would pronounce. I recall with vividness even today President Lee’s sealing of this ordinance. It seemed to me he was struggling for words, direction, and guidance to give encouragement to this good brother. I had the feeling he wanted to promise him complete recovery and health from a serious malady, but the words didn’t come as he pronounced the sealing. It was evident as the seconds passed he was not only troubled but groping for direction that would be positive and rewarding, not only to the recipient but to others in the room who had grave concern over the individual’s health. President Lee never did promise health, strength, and recovery to this individual. He gave words of encouragement and touched on the basics of the total gospel plan, but the promise of healing was not forthcoming.
Immediately following this experience, President Lee took me aside in another room and said softly and in perfect mildness, “Marv, he’s not going to get better, is he?“
I responded to President Lee, “No. I could tell you wanted to promise this type of blessing, but it was apparently not to be.” I recall his final comment after we walked away from the family members: “The Lord has other plans, and he determines not only what we promise but what will happen.”
One morning my office phone rang very early before the secretary had come in. As I picked it up, I recognized the soft voice of President Spencer W. Kimball on the other end of the line. After saying hello, I heard him in his faint voice say, “Marv, I have something I want to talk to you about. Do you mind if I come up to your office and visit?“
I said, “President Kimball, if you’d like to talk to me, I’ll be right down to your office. Would you like me to come?”
And he gently said, “Would you do that?“
Courteous, friendly, and willing to be the servant of all, it was his leadership style to never demand or use the influence of his mighty calling to take the lead in what people would do or how they would respond to him. I would have you know that on this occasion he could have said, “Marv, this is President Kimball. Come down to my office right away.” Certainly he had the power, authority, and right to ask me to meet with him under any and all circumstances, but instead, as I volunteered to come to his office, he simply said, “Would you be good enough to do that?” He had the kind of approach, humility, mildness, and love that would inspire all of us to sustain and support him and love him under all conditions.
A few days before he passed away, President Kimball was in the temple on the fourth floor with his associates of the First Presidency and the members of the Twelve. He was so weak and frail that there was every good reason for him to not be there. Before our meeting started, members of the Twelve walked by where he sat to shake his hand and greet him. There was almost no response at all because of the physical drain over the last few months. There was almost no capacity to communicate or respond to the present situation. His hearing was very limited, his eyesight was failing, and his frail body was filled with aches. As I shook his hand privately and felt little or no response, I gave it an extra squeeze. I said, “President Kimball, I’m Marv Ashton.” How can I ever forget his last words to me when he looked up just a little and said very softly, “Marv Ashton, I love you.“
I recall telephoning President Benson while I was away on a stake assignment. A major situation and problem were evident. They were serious enough that I felt the need for his wise counsel. When I finished explaining the facts and developments to him, he said in reassuring mildness and trust, “Do what needs to be done. You have my complete confidence and support.“
These five prophets I have known so well have called and encouraged in a voice and spirit of perfect mildness. I thank God for them. I pray God to help us remember true leaders always lead with mild voices, love, and persuasion.
A Still Voice of Perfect Mildness, Marvin J. Ashton, 20 February 1990
Archive for the ‘Marvin J. Ashton’ Category
Hugh B. Brown told about his mother’s encouraging words as he left on his mission when he was about twenty years of age. This, essentially, was her message, as I recall.
Hugh, you remember when you were a little boy and you would have a bad dream or wake up in the night frightened, you would call from your room: “Mother, are you there?” and I would answer and try to comfort you and remove your fears. Now as you go on a mission and out into the world there will be times when you will be frightened, when you feel weak, inadequate, alone, and have problems. I want you to know that you can call to your Heavenly Father as you used to call to me and say: “Father, are you there? I need your help.” Do this with the knowledge that he is there and that he will be ready to help you if you will do your part and live worthy of your blessings and needs. I want to reassure you that he is there and will answer your prayers and needs for your best good.
Perhaps it would be good for our souls to build the relationship and understanding that he is there, even our loving and eternal Father, and that ofttimes delays to our urgent pleas can be best for us. Who is to say it isn’t more important to know that he is there than to receive immediate answers?
Incidentally, one of my favorite “cry-out-during-the-night” children’s stories is that of a four-year-old boy who came during the middle of the night to his father and mother’s bedroom, sobbing and crying with great enthusiasm. When his mother drew him near and put her arms around him to give comfort, saying, “What happened?” he said, “I fell out of bed.” She asked, “How did you fall out of bed?” And he cried, “Because I wasn’t in far enough.” This could be used to put over an extensive message as shared by a child, but let me just say in passing it has been my experience that most people who fall out of the Church do so because they were not in far enough.
Recently, an inactive member of the Church, and a constant critic of what we do and don’t do, talked to me for a few minutes. He seems to delight in nipping at my heels and at the Church whenever we get together. Despite his “having-all-of-the-answers” attitude, our relationship is good. He said, “The Church and BYU’s policy is now easy to read. With enrollment ceilings and Church schools being restricted by quotas and membership guidelines, students, administrators, or faculty can comply with set standards and policies or get out. They will be either in or out promptly.”
When I hear this kind of banter and bashing comments, I sometimes am annoyed, and other times I’m amused. For the fun of it, after he made this remark, I said, “Did you reach that conclusion on your own, or did it come through prayer?”
His response: “I don’t have to pray any more.“
It seems to me that when it has been necessary over the years to let someone out for misconduct or failure to comply, it is to have them out so that they can get back in.
At one time I was visiting with an excommunicated member of the Church and used this approach to tell him he had been disciplined and was out of the Church so it would now be possible for him to come back in, with a greater strength and appreciation for the gospel. Thank God the great majority realize that every policy and standard recommended is to keep them in comfortably and securely and not to drive them out. I have always thought the Savior, Jesus the Christ, drove the money changers out of the temple so they could come back in with righteous desires and new commitments.
If we know he is there, that he loves us, and is our advocate, why do we pray? Individuals pray for different reasons, but the primary purpose of our prayers is to attune ourselves to our Heavenly Father so that we can receive light and truth. It is light and truth that enables us to forsake the evil one.
President Heber J. Grant once said:
The minute a man stops supplicating God for his spirit and direction, just so soon he starts out to become a stranger to him and his works. When men stop praying for God’s spirit, they place confidence in their own unaided reason, and they gradually lose the spirit of God. ["Some Sentence Sermons," Improvement Era, August 1944, p. 481]
Perhaps we could do well to involve ourselves in more and more quiet saying of prayers. There are strength and power and discipline rewards in communicating with God on a continuing personal and private basis. Quietly we can pray for the patience to have our secret prayers answered. Sometimes we fail to recognize answered prayers because we are deaf to his quiet promptings.
Listen to President Brigham Young’s counsel on the matter of praying even when we don’t feel like it or when earthly requests have not been satisfied.
It matters not whether you or I feel like praying, when the time comes to pray, pray. If we do not feel like it, we should pray till we do. . . . You will find that those who wait till the Spirit bids them pray, will never pray much on this earth. [DBY, p. 44]
And he continues:
If I did not feel like praying, . . . I should say, “Brigham, get down here on your knees, bow your body down before the throne of him who rules in the heavens, and stay there until you can feel to supplicate at that throne of grace erected for sinners.” [DBY, p. 46]
We are looked upon by God as though we were in eternity. God dwells in eternity, and does not view things as we do. [Teachings, p. 356; emphasis added]
Generally our Heavenly Father will not interfere with the agency of another person unless he has a greater purpose for that individual.
I have lived sufficiently long on this earth to see that some of the prayers, which I concluded were not answered, were answered for my best good. I am still trying to recognize a “no” answer. I am still trying to recognize and accept silent answers.
D&C 121:1Â3, D&C 121:7Â8, D&C 93:49, Moses 5:8, D&C 8:10, D&C 19:28, Alma 34:18Â,27, 2 Nephi 32:8, Ether 12:6, Alma 36:11, D&C 88:64, 3 Nephi 18:20, D&C 18:18, D&C 121:1
Marvin J. Ashton, (November 10, 1992) Know He Is There
Appreciation for all people and events that come into our lives is most important because it is God’s way of helping us to grow. The ultimate maturity is being able to feel and express appreciation promptly, being fully aware of the value and importance, and showing gratitude for it. How does God feel about giving thanks? In the Doctrine and Covenants we read: “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments” (D&C 59:21).
Would you like to have God’s wrath raised against you? Would you like to have God angry with you? It can happen, and it will happen if we fail to show gratitude. Why does the lack of appreciation offend God and kindle his wrath? Not because he needs necessarily to see and hear our thanks, but because he knows an absence of appreciation on the part of anyone causes personal stagnation. Our growth and our progress are delayed when we fail to feel and express a sincere thank-you.
We would remind you as you ponder and yearn for quick responses to important needs that sometimes the right answer could be no answer.
Are you able to accept a responsibility, particularly one that seems beyond your grasp and comprehension, with a simple “Thank you, Heavenly Father” for an unplanned calling? When I think of my being named a member of the Council of Twelve, I never remember over the years ever saying, “Thank you, Father in Heaven, for this calling.” Many, many are the times I have thanked him for his trust, strength, and guidance, but never for the calling. Perhaps someday I will be mature enough to so declare. In the meantime, as I grow older and, I hope, wiser, the thank-you will continue to be for ongoing support.
Can you give thanks when physical limitations are constant and trying? I am thinking of a close friend of mine who died recently. He spent the majority of his life in a wheelchair. Shortly before he passed away, we had an intimate conversation. He said, among other things, “Looking back now, I am glad for the pluses of wheelchair life. It brought special experiences, people, opportunities, and tender relationships I would have never experienced if my mobility had not been restricted.”
Can you give thanks when you are trying to climb an extra high mountain in your life of hills and valleys? Oftentimes we pray for strength to make it to the summit in life’s journeys, and the Lord seemingly adds elephant-sized burdens to our backs to carry up steep and trying paths.
A sincere thank-you will cause most of us to share and perform more worthily in the days that follow.
Appreciation of companion, appreciation of sweetheart, appreciation of husband and wife, education, and lofty standards is so important. It is a most important ingredient in a happy marriage. Many a family, many a marriage is broken because of a lack of appreciation. The most mature and successful people who participate in marriage are those who understand that a sincere and frequent thank-you is love in one of its most powerful displays. What a strength it is to have a companion who feels and expresses appreciation! Too many times I have heard people say, “My marriage was terminated primarily because my husband (or wife) didn’t appreciate anything I ever did for him. No matter what I did, there was no thanks!”
In recalling some of the Savior’s well-known teachings, the word now can be appropriately added to emphasize their impact.
John 14:15: “If ye love me, keep my commandments”–NOW.
Mark 16:15: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature”–NOW.
Luke 18:22: “Come, follow me”–NOW.
Truly, if we love God, we will serve him now, and give thanks now.
There are those among us, though they would deny it, who are hungry for fellowship and activity in the Church today. They need us and we need them. It is our duty and blessing to help them find the way now. We and they are God’s sheep, and we can best be fed and led together. Today is the time to let them know we care and that the Lord loves them. He stands anxious to forgive and welcome in the processes of appreciation. God give us the courage to act now. God give us the courage to give thanks.
There is an urgency today for all of us to take time for God.
As we take time for God, we will become more like him. Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “Saints are sinners who kept trying.”
May I share with you a thank-you that means very much to me. My quorum leader, an esteemed and respected associate, President Howard W. Hunter, has had great difficulty over the past number of years with his mobility. First he was confined to a bed, then a wheelchair, then a walker, and is presently able to stand and walk alone today. He has been a great example of patience, determination, and faith. Over these past few years as Elder Boyd K. Packer and I have sat closest to him in meetings and quorum duties, we help him to his feet after the meetings. Never, and I emphasize the word never, have we not heard him say “thank you” when lifted or assisted in his coming and going. I appreciate this lesson. I appreciate his strength.
Marvin J. Ashton, (September 01, 1991) And in Everything Give Thanks
John Taylor said of Hyrum: “If ever there was an exemplary, honest, and virtuous man, an embodiment of all that is noble in human form, Hyrum Smith was its representative.” John Taylor also said of Joseph and Hyrum Smith that they are “two of the best of Adam’s race.” Hyrum was an older brother, six years senior to Joseph, and stood by his side in life and death. The age differential never seemed to make much of a difference in Hyrum’s attitude toward his younger brother. He was his friend, his advocate, and strength.
Joseph maintained an especially close tie to his brother Hyrum. “Never in all my life have I seen anything more beautiful than the striking example of brotherly love and devotion felt for each other by Joseph and Hyrum,” recalled a friend of the Smiths, William Taylor. “I witnessed this many, many times. No matter how often or when or where they met, it was always with the same expression of supreme joy. It could not have been otherwise, when both were filled to overflowing with the gift and power of the Holy Ghost! It was kindred spirits meeting!”
President David O. McKay frequently said: “It is better to be trusted than to be loved.“
In section 11 of the Doctrine and Covenants, verses 6 through 10 cover some direct revelation instructions, guidelines, and promises for Hyrum Smith.
Seek not for riches but for wisdom; and behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich.
Achievement and talent without character are hollow.
The Lord will always have a special love for those who embrace the right.
Marvin J. Ashton, (March 05, 1989) He Loveth That Which is Right
The main question for every person to resolve is not what he would do if he had unlimited money, time, influence, or vast educational advantages, but how he will best use the means and assets he has and will yet have.
Joseph Smith gave us a glimpse of his measure of friends when he said, “If my life is of no value to my friends, it is of none to myself” (HC 6:549). The Savior said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
An Arabian proverb helps us:
A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.
A person is poor when he is friendless, but even poorer when he ceases being a friend. No matter what the conduct or negligence of others may be, we cannot afford to yield in our sincere pursuit to be a friend. When a person allows himself to feel he has no friends, he is poor; but he is doubly poor if he has to admit he is a friend to no one. Very often our family members and friends need our friendship most when they least deserve it.
When we yield to misconduct under pressure, we are poor. A person who has to beg for bread is not poor if he has not bent to expediency. An individual is headed for personal bankruptcy when he sells his character and reputation for cash, honor, or convenience. We are poor in character when we think getting by is a substitute for doing our best.
The worst form of defeat is to be conquered by self. Defeat is not pleasant, but nothing is so painful and devastating as self-defeat. When we lose our self-dignity and self-respect, it is the worst form of poverty.
Thomas Carlyle said, “Over the times thou hast no power, solely over one man thou hast quite absolute power. Him redeem and make honest.”
Without honesty there is no foundation upon which to build. How can a person be helped when he insists on living the lie?
A person is poor when he lives by comparison rather than by principle. A person is poor when he fails to realize repentance is a process and not just a declaration.
A person who is willing to repent will never have more liabilities than assets. We can be rich if life’s ledger is filled with daily entries that show bottom-line totals including sound moral conduct, uprightness, and incorruptibility.
A person who allows his money to manage him instead of his managing his money is poor. No matter how much or how little we have to live on each week or month, it needs to be used wisely. We need to work out a budget and live within it. Some claim living within a budget takes the fun out of life and is too restrictive. Those who avoid the inconvenience of budget regulations must suffer the pains of living outside it.
No one needs to apologize for his success in financial achievement if the means of attainment have been honorable, and he knows how to wisely use what he has.
Conversely, when money and wealth become our goal and our god, we are poor. I personally applaud those who are honorably successful in achieving an abundance of this world’s goods, but only if it is convincingly evident their money is being wisely used.
It is a worthy prayer to ask our Heavenly Father to bless us with this world’s goods, but not with more than we can bear. Too much money can make us poor. Limited budgets can teach us sacrifice, self-reliance, restraint, and personal management. One of life’s great lessons is to teach us that what we do with what we have is more important than what we have. Proper incentive and attitudes prevent us from ever classifying ourselves as poor.
Mark 8:36, D&C 124:15, D&C 121:1, D&C 121:7, 9, 10, John 15:13
Marvin J. Ashton, (March 30, 1982) It’s No Fun Being PoorÂ
As the First Presidency, the Council of the Twelve, and other General Authorities have met in the upper room of the temple on a once-a-month basis, President Kimball has never failed to call upon President Tanner to bear his testimony at the conclusion of these meetings. How often I have heard him say, “What am I doing here? I have so little to offer; I feel like I’m the least among you.” In a spirit of true humility he asks, “What am I doing here? What do I have to offer?” and he will follow it by saying, “Nevertheless, I pray every night and morning for God to help me to do my part.” I have heard him say, ” All I want to do in God’s kingdom is do what he wants me to do.” In modestly accepting compliments I have heard him say, “Now why would anyone want to say that about me?“
I see that humility is not a weakness; humility is a strength.
President N. Eldon Tanner is known by his associates in and out of the Church as Mr. Integrity, a man of character, a man of quality, an advocate of self-discipline. Frequently in conference he has admonished, “Be honest. Don’t be a hypocrite. Be what you should be.” He is a man of few words and much performance. I have never heard him make a cheap or shabby remark. I have never seen him when he was not a gentleman, when he was not the personification of integrity.
We had a recent experience with a missionary in a missionary conferenceâ€¦ We had approximately seventy-five missionaries for this meeting. We took the time to give opportunity for testimony bearing. I remember only one testimony very well. One young man stood up among his peers, grabbed hold of the front of the pew–I thought he was going to pull it out, he was so nervous–cleared his throat, and said, “I almost didn’t come on a mission. One night I said to my dad, ‘I don’t know about this Joseph Smith business. I’m not even sure about this Spencer W. Kimball. I’m not even sure I want to go.’” We all turned around and looked at him, wondering what was going to happen next. He said, “When I said that to my father, my father got up from where he was seated. He turned on the light. He walked over and turned off the television. He smashed out his cigarette. He put down his can of beer, and he said, “Son, you know I don’t do much about this church. You know I’m inactive, but I want you to know that I know Joseph Smith’s a prophet of God, and I know that Spencer W. Kimball is a prophet.’”
The elder said, “I love my dad. His comments made me want to go on a mission more than ever because I knew my dad would never be able to go and I had double duty to do. I’ve got to do a mission for myself and one for my dad.” How easy it would have been for him to say, “What chance do I have?” with a father who was completely inactive!
Let me relate a little story that I have told all over the Church. My daughter and her girl friend were at our house, and they were going to a party; then two young men came and called for them. I sat and talked to them about different things, and just before they were ready to leave, I said, “Now have a good time, kids.” But just as they were going out of the door, I stepped over to my daughter and said, “Now, behave yourself.”
And she said, “Well, Dad, make up your mind.“
Then I said to those young people so they could all hear me, “Have a good time, kids, the best time you will ever have in your lives, but the kind of time that tomorrow, next week, a month from now or a year from now, ten years from now, you can look back on tonight and say, ‘I had a good time’ and have nothing to regret or to be sorry about.” And I think they went out and had a good time. [N. Eldon Tanner, Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God, p. 3]
Marvin J. Ashton, (December 04, 1977) N. Eldon Tanner–An Example to Follow