Some might say Elder Michael A. Dunn and his family have taken the notion of “enduring to the end” to a new level.
He and his wife, Sister Linda Dunn, have run more than 50 marathons combined, including several 100-mile ultramarathons. For their 30th anniversary, Elder and Sister Dunn competed together in an Ironman — a triathlon consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and 26.2-mile run.
“It’s fair to call it ‘crazy’,” Elder Dunn admitted with a chuckle, “but these endurance events have purpose in that they teach us we can do hard things, and still find joy.”
Elder Dunn, a new General Authority Seventy sustained during the April 2021 general conference, said training for long-distance races has taught him and his family important lessons about faith and endurance. Elder and Sister Dunn’s three children are also avid runners, skiers and cyclists.
“The life lesson for us and for our children is that by tackling tough challenges, it both breaks us down and then strengthens us,” said Elder Dunn. “That process — painful as it most times is — is what eternal progression is all about.”
While training for a marathon several years ago in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, Elder Dunn was attacked by a grizzly bear. The near-death experience led to three surgeries and months of recovery. He told the Church News in 1994 that surviving the attack, “has given me a desire to serve others more, to get outside my own little world and look for ways to meet the needs of others.”
Today, Elder Dunn is quick to acknowledge the providence of Heavenly Father and the Savior throughout his life. “I’ve been guided despite my inferior knowledge, weaknesses and abilities,” he said. “Doors have been opened and I have been gently nudged into pathways that have brought me happiness.”
Elder and Sister Dunn’s lifelong connection to sports has also helped them befriend neighbors and share the gospel “in normal and natural ways,” Sister Dunn said.
While serving as mission leaders in the South Africa Johannesburg Mission from 2014 to 2017, Elder and Sister Dunn participated in a local cycling group in which they were the only members of the Church. The Dunns welcomed conversations about their faith and invited their new friends to the mission home.
As a convert to the Church, Elder Dunn understands the importance of embracing all in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Inclusivity is also something he learned from the African people. “They taught us how to love God and each other deeper,” he said.
Elder Dunn’s parents divorced when he was a small child, and he was raised by a mother who instilled in him strong faith and values. After attending a private Episcopal school in Salt Lake City, he transferred as a sophomore to a public high school where he got his first real exposure to Latter-day Saints.
He was invited to a stake New Year’s Eve dance, where he saw a beautiful girl named Linda Poulson on the middle of the dance floor. “I was completely smitten,” Elder Dunn recalled of meeting his future wife.
As Linda and his new friends and their parents welcomed him with open arms, he desired to learn about the Church and eventually met with missionaries. Teachings about the Godhead and Joseph Smith’s First Vision “landed in me with real power,” Elder Dunn said.
Through prayer and the Holy Ghost he knew the gospel was true and was baptized in his senior year of high school. The only member of the Church in his family, he was embraced and loved by the ward.
As his 19th birthday approached, a young couple in his ward, Ray and Amy Jones, encouraged him to serve a full-time mission and offered to support him. Elder Dunn was then called to serve in the Hawaii Honolulu Mission.
Opportunities to deeply study the Bible and Book of Mormon and a sequence of great mission companions led to “a life-changing mission experience, which set up the foundation for the rest of my life,” he said.
A year after he returned home, he and Linda married in the Salt Lake Temple on May 1, 1980. Elder and Sister Dunn raised their family in Park City and Salt Lake City, where they currently reside.
Learn more about the 8 new General Authority Seventies sustained during April 2021 general conference
About 10 years after they were married, Elder and Sister Dunn learned of a surprising family history connection on Elder Dunn’s side. His birth father, Austin Taggart Smith, was a descendant of Asael Smith, the Prophet Joseph Smith’s grandfather — meaning Elder Dunn is Joseph’s first cousin four times removed.
Once active members who were sealed in the temple, Elder Dunn’s paternal grandparents had fallen away from the Church. By the time Elder Dunn was born, his father had no connection to the Church. Learning of his family’s heritage in the Church strengthened Elder and Sister Dunn’s desire to root their marriage and family in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“It cemented the reasons we committed to talk of and rejoice in Christ, so that our children, ‘may look forward unto that life which is in Christ’,” said Elder Dunn, referencing 2 Nephi 25:26-27.
Sister Dunn said she feels fortunate to have been a witness to Elder Dunn’s “remarkable journey” — his spiritual journey as well as his professional journey.
Elder Dunn’s aptitude for creativity led to a successful career in journalism, advertising and television. He was a senior writer and producer for Fotheringham & Associates and Bonneville Communications. He founded and operated Dunn Communications Inc. for 18 years, and later worked as the general manager of KUED (PBS Utah).
Most recently, Elder Dunn was managing director of BYUtv and BYUradio.
As she reflects on Elder Dunn’s call as a General Authority Seventy, Sister Dunn said, “the further I’ve gotten along in the journey of life, the more I’ve seen His hand at every turn. … We just feel grateful and humbled and willing to let the Lord continue to show us what He wants us to do with our lives.”
“I’m a believer,” added Elder Dunn, who was serving as an Area Seventy in the Utah Area at the time of his call. “I’m blessed to be a witness of Jesus Christ and promulgate His life, His goodness, His restored gospel today.”
Family: Born in Tucson, Arizona, on March 5, 1958. Son of Patricia Sargeant and James R. Dunn. Married Linda Virginia Poulson on May 1, 1980, in the Salt Lake Temple; they are the parents of three children.
Education: Received a Bachelor of Science degree in mass communications in 1981 and a Master of Arts degree in communications in 2008, both from the University of Utah.
Employment: Writer/producer for Fotheringham and Associates, senior writer for Bonneville Communications, general manager of KUED (PBS Utah), president of Dunn Communications Inc., and most recently, managing director of BYUtv and BYUradio.
Church service: Area Seventy, president of the South Africa Johannesburg Mission (2014-2017), stake president, high councilor, bishop, ward Young Men president and full-time missionary in the Hawaii Honolulu Mission (1977-1979).