Stepbrother’s book gives readers insight on Elvis’ faith

Despite his death at Graceland in 1977, Elvis Presley remains popular with record companies, movie studios and book publishers.

Decades after his passing, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll is still revered by legions of fans.

Now his stepbrother, Billy Stanley, is sharing insight into Presley’s religious foundations in a book titled “The Faith of Elvis: A Story Only a Brother Can Tell.”

Published last month by Thomas Nelson and co-written with Kent Sanders, it “illuminates Elvis’ Christian journey” and highlights his “unwavering faith,” promoters say.

Stanley decided to write “The Faith of Elvis” after having his own brush with mortality, he said.

“On May 19, 2018, I had a heart attack, stroke, and seizure – all three. I was dead for 10 minutes. And while I was dead, I had what many people call a near-death experience, and I was in heaven, and I saw Elvis there. And that’s how it all came about,” he said.

When he recovered, he asked God what to do with the otherworldly insight he now possessed and was told, “You have to share it, Billy,” Stanley recalled.

The result is a 256-page book that focuses on Elvis’ journey of faith and the lessons he imparted to those around him.

This is Stanley’s third Presley-themed book, his first since 1989’s “Elvis, My Brother: An Intimate Family Memoir of Life With the King” and “Elvis: We Love You Tender,” written with his mother, Dee Stanley Presley, and his brothers in 1980.

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Born in Tupelo, Miss., on Jan. 8, 1935, Elvis Presley had Pentecostal roots. For much of his childhood, the Assemblies of God, formed in Hot Springs in 1914, was his spiritual home, helping to shape not only his faith but also his music.

His mother, Gladys, took him to church from an early age.

“We were a religious family that went around together to sing at camp meetings and revivals. Since I was 2 years old, all I knew was gospel music,” Presley once said.

In 1960, two years after Gladys Presley’s death, his father, Vernon Presley, married Davada “Dee” Stanley and brought her and her three sons—Billy, Rick, and David—to live in Memphis.

In the years that followed, the three young people would be eyewitnesses to rock ‘n’ roll history.

Rick Stanley, who died in 2019, would go on to become a Southern Baptist evangelist.

On Sundays, the three brothers attended a Church of Christ not far from the Presley compound.

Elvis, who loved reading the Bible and talking about spirituality, never went with them.

“He said, ‘Billy, if I go, people will pay more attention to me than they will to the preacher,’ and he said, ‘That’s not right.’ He said, ‘I don’t want that to happen,'” Stanley remembered.

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Instead of going to church, Presley would watch religious broadcasts on Sunday mornings, Stanley said.

He was especially fond of televangelist Rex Humbard, a Hot Springs native and pastor of Cathedral of Tomorrow, north of Akron, Ohio. Humbard met and prayed with Presley in Las Vegas shortly before his death and spoke at his funeral.

Presley’s interest in spiritual matters never waned, Stanley said.

“Elvis always made sure his Bible was with him,” he said. “It was always right there on the nightstand and he read it constantly. Even though there were Bibles in hotels and things like that, he preferred to have his own because he’d underlined things, highlighted things, made notes in his. He was constantly reading the Bible pretty much all the time, almost every day.”

Presley was labeled the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and understood he had a higher sovereign, Stanley said.

“I would hear people say, ‘You’re the king.’ He said, ‘No, no, I’m sorry. There’s only one true king, and that’s Jesus,'” Stanley said.

Presley died on August 16, 1977. He was 42 years old. Vernon and Dee Presley divorced a few months later.

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If he were alive today, the singer would be 87 years old. He left behind 18 No. 1 hit singles and a music catalog that includes numerous gospel songs.

His musical testimony lingers on record albums and concert videos.

Presley insisted on playing gospel music when he toured.

“He wasn’t afraid to show his faith,” Stanley said.

“He really believed his voice was a gift from God,” Stanley said. “How is it better to pay God than to sing his praises?”

No longer at Graceland, Presley now resides within the Pearly Gates, Stanley suggested.

During his near-death experience in 2018, Stanley said Presley gave him a hug and a message to go back to the earthly realm.

“He just looked at me and said, ‘Tell my family, my friends and the fans that I love them and I’ll see them when they get here,'” Stanley said.

Photo Billy Stanley, whose mother married Elvis Presley’s father in 1960, has written three books about the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. (Courtesy of Susan Heard Photography)
Photo A new book by Billy Stanley, one of Elvis Presley’s three half-brothers, sheds light on the rock’n’roll icon’s spiritual journey. Stanley said he decided to write “The Faith of Elvis Presley” after experiencing a near-death experience in 2018. (Courtesy of Thomas Nelson)

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