New film to highlight mystery of Elvis’ faith

Four different projects are attempting to release the first Hollywood biographical movie about Elvis Presley. Only one looks at his spirituality.

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“Presley recorded over 80 Gospel tracks during his career,” writes biographer Peter Ramsay. ”Those who knew Elvis said he not only knew and sang hymns he actually loved Gospel songs. After concerts, late at night, Elvis and his friends would sing classic Christian songs such as ‘In the Sweet By and By.’”

He was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2001.

“Elvis started singing hymns as a child, attending church with his mother,” writes Ramsay. “There are many stories about Elvis’ respect for Christ. One such story goes like this: One night at a concert fans unfurled a massive banner while Elvis was singing. The banner read: ‘Elvis is King!’ Elvis stopped in the middle of his song and clearly stated in the microphone: ‘There is only one king and He is Jesus Christ.’

“Donnie Sumner, in his autobiography In the Shadow of Kings, devotes a chapter to the question: Was Elvis a Christian?” writes Ramsay. “Sumner sang with Elvis for years as a member of the Stamps Quartet. Here is a lengthy excerpt from Chapter 27 of Sumner’s book:”

I recall one night when Elvis motioned for me to follow him and I did. After leaving Linda and all the guys in the living room, we found ourselves in his bedroom. He sat on the bed with his back to the headboard and I sprawled out across the foot of the bed, on my side with my head propped up by my bent arm and said, “What ya’ need, boss?”

His response shall always be the memory of a door that I once had opened before me and one that I failed to walk through. I was in no way a professing believer at the time and the question Elvis asked me took me totally by surprise. It is not within my power to return again to that point and redo it properly but I can tell you now, what was said.

“What does ‘being saved’ mean?”

I was astonished that Elvis would ask “me” such a question and I said to him in response, “Far out boss, why you askin’ me such a question? Do I look like a preacher?”

“Seriously,” he said, “I was watchin’ this show on TV and they were talking about when they got “saved” and I knew your dad was a preacher and I figured if anybody here would know, you would.”

Realizing, then, that he was seriously trying to determine what “being saved” really was, I made a brief attempt at trying to explain it, the way that I had been taught as a child, in a less than an ecclesiastical rendering.

I said to Elvis, “Well, the way I understand it, if you believe the story that Jesus really came as they say He did and that He died for sins the way they say He did and the other stuff they say, like, He rose from the dead, went back to Heaven and that He’s coming again some day: If you really truly believe all of that and discount any other way to be right with God as you and I believe Him to be, then you are saved and “being saved” is just a way of saying that you are a “born again believer.” Then, in a jesting after thought, I said, “How’s that ‘my son’?”

Elvis then asked, “Well, what happens then?”

I was really getting into it by then and answered him, “Well if you accept by faith the fact that all of this is true and ask the Spirit of Jesus to take control of your living, He will and He’ll help you do stuff like make the right decisions and be a better kind of person.” I said to him, “I’ve heard my daddy say, lots of times, “If Jesus wasn’t walking with me, I don’t think I could make it.” I then concluded my “redneck” message with the comment, “But the best part is, when you die you go to heaven instead of hell!”

Elvis’ short comment was, “Cool!” He then added, “Sometimes life is hell! Maybe I’m already there!”

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Rob Kerby
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