He graduated from the University of Utah.
The younger Ashton worked in the lumber business as a youth. He served a mission in Great Britain, where his mission president was Hugh B. Brown. He worked as managing director of Latter- Day Saints (Mormons) Social Services.
He was also president of Deseret Book and involved in other business ventures including a lumber company.
From 1958 to 1969, Ashton was an assistant to the general superintendent of the church"s Young Men"s Mutual Improvement Association. He served as an assistant to superintendents Joseph T. Bentley and G. Carlos Smith.
Ashton was an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1969 until his call to the Quorum of the Twelve. Ashton was ordained an apostle on December 2, 1971, after the death of Richard L. Evans.
Ashton died on February 25, 1994, with the vacancy created in the Quorum of the Twelve filled by Robert Doctorate. Hales.
Ashton served as a member of the Utah State Senate from 1957 to 1961 as a Republican.