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‘Elvis wanted to be like Jesus, read his Bible every day,' stepbrother says

Billy Stanley
Elvis Presley's stepbrother Billy Stanley speaks during an interview with The Christian Post in 2022. |

The stepbrother of music icon Elvis Presley has pulled back a veil on the side of "The King of Rock' n' Roll" that people only caught a glimpse of while the legendary artist was alive. 

New York Times bestselling author Billy Stanley released a new memoir this week titled The Faith of Elvis: A Story Only a Brother Can Tell.

"Elvis was a Christian. They see the glitz and glamor and everything like that. But during his concerts, he always did two gospel songs during the middle of his shows," Stanley shared in a video interview with The Christian Post. "That was to show his fans his faith. He used the stage as his platform to let people know he was a Christian."

Stanley said that his stepbrother was "a Bible-carrying Christian."

"He carried the Bible with him everywhere he went," Stanley said. 

Stanley's mother and Elvis' dad, Vernon, met while Presley — who was already well-known for his musical talents — was serving in the military and stationed overseas in Germany.

After one thing led to another, Stanley said one day he woke up from a nap, and he and his two brothers, Rick and David, were in a limo headed to Graceland to meet their new stepbrother.

"Elvis played a lot of roles in his life, but one of the roles that he really enjoyed the most was playing big brother," Stanley said. "He was an only child, and he always wanted to have brothers, and we gave him a chance to be a kid again."

Elvis and his Step Brothers
Elvis Presley and his Step Brothers - Billy, Rick and David |

Elvis was 25, Stanley was 7, Rick was 6 and David was 4. 

"He welcomed us into the family, and he tucked us into bed that night. But before we did, he said a prayer," Stanley recalled. "Now you got a picture of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock 'n' Roll, getting on his knees and saying a prayer. I'll never forget this prayer."

"He said: 'Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for this day and for our many blessings. Thank you for bringing these three little boys into my life. I promise to love and protect them the rest of my life.'"

Stanley said Presley lived up to that prayer.

The next morning after they met, he called the boys into the backyard and handed them three of every kind of toy for each of his new brothers to play with. They spent the rest of that day playing together.

Those moments set the stage for the rest of Stanley's relationship with Presley. Stanely credits the performer as being instrumental in how he came to faith. 

"That was probably one of the first prayers I ever heard in my life. He started teaching us about the Bible at a very early age because he would share some stuff in his Bible. He had stuff underlined, and he made notes and stuff like that. He read the Bible several times all the way through, and he had several verses that he loved," the author noted.

"One of the things that always amazed me is when he read the Bible to my brothers, he would sometimes act out the part as he was reading the Bible. You don't forget those Sunday school lessons."

Stanley felt compelled to write a book on Presley's faith because his stepbrother's faith is not something the mainstream media ever put on display despite how important it was to him. The book highlights Presley's generosity and motivation, which came from a verse found in 2 Corinthians 9: "the Lord loves that generous giver."

"He was the most generous giver I've met in my whole life. Because he was given [a lot], that's what his whole thing was, 'Billy, we're here to help other people; that's why we're put on this earth.'"

Stanley shared a time when he saw his older stepbrother hand a wallet full of money to a homeless man. The man began to weep and said, "God Bless you," to which Presley replied, "Sir, He already has."

"Elvis didn't want to be like anybody that I've ever met, but he did want to be like Jesus," Stanley told CP. 

"That's why people hear about the generosity and the love that he had for just everybody on earth. He truly loved everybody. When I say 'give himself,' he gave more of himself than he did material things," he continued. 

"I think that's what comes across, and that's what people see when [they] see Elvis, is his love for mankind," Stanley added. "That's what comes across. They call him the King of Rock, but he only got three Grammys for the gospel music, which I tell people, 'OK, you listen to any one of your favorite Elvis songs, 'Hound Dog' or whatever, and then you listen to the gospel music. There's a big difference because you can hear it in his heart and soul. Because that's where it was at.'"

Heaven was Presley's reward, Stanley believes. Presley died at the age of 42 in 1977. 

Stanley testified of a vision he had in 2018 when he encountered God following a near-death experience.

"It was May 19, 2018. I didn't know what was going on. I was just sitting there watching TV with my younger brother, David. And I felt like ... [I was] going to take a nap. I don't remember the convulsions or any of the things that happened. The next thing I know, I'm standing, and it looks like clouds. I'm looking around. I've never seen that many people before in my life; all different color people, different hair colors, all nationalities. I was looking, and I saw city off to the right, and something said, 'That's where you got to go,'" he recalled. 

As he started walking, Stanley described an overwhelming sense of love like he never felt before. He said there was also a light so bright with no source from where the light was coming from. 

"There was no sense of time, anxiety, or anything that I felt here on earth. So as I was walking, I see a figure in front of me, and I didn't know who it was until he turns around. It was Elvis, and he smiles," he continued.

"The great thing about being in Heaven is you don't have to speak with your mouth. You can hear their thoughts. He said, 'Great to see you, Billy, and he gives me a big hug.'

"So as I step back, it all of a sudden just started getting dark, and it was closing in on Elvis' face. And without moving his mouth, he said, 'Tell my fans, my family and friends, I love them. I'll see them when they get here.' Then I heard God say, 'No doubt, no fear.'"

Stanley said God didn't have to explain, but he knew what He meant. 

"No doubt — there is a Heaven. And no fear — that this is where you will go if you believe this with all your heart and soul that Jesus came and died for your sins."

Years after this experience, Stanley believes he came back because God wanted him to share with others how they could get to Heaven.

In his book, Stanley uses Scripture and the rock star's life experiences as somewhat of an instruction manual on making it into Heaven from a Christian perspective.

Along with Elvis' great success, he also had many battles on earth, one being with drug addiction.

"Whenever Elvis was in trouble, he would always turn to the Bible. That was his source right there. Whenever he had [issues], he would read his Bible, and he would walk away realizing it was just a test that God had given him," Stanley explained. "And did he pass the test? Yes!"

Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley's Bible sits on display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14, 2017. |

"People always love to say, 'He had problems.' Yes, he did, but what human does not have problems? We all do. His just happened to be magnified, even bigger than what a lot of it really was. We all suffer from some sort of addiction or something like that, whether eating or whatever it could be. You have to recognize it and deal with it."

In June, a Hollywood film on Presley's life drew millions of dollars at the box office. But Stanley believes the film failed to adequately show who the artist actually was.

"That's not the Elvis I grew up with. It didn't show him very happy in the movie. It didn't show him joking around. It didn't show him reading the Bible or anything like that. That was a daily thing with Elvis," Stanley emphasized. "There would be times he called me up to his room, and he'd be sitting on the bed, just reading his Bible."

"I would like to see a movie that really did Elvis justice. This one right here really doesn't. I'm sorry, he was much greater than what they showed," Stanley continued. "Pretty much everything they've shown in any movie ever done about Elvis was just general knowledge. That's why this book is completely different than any book that's ever been done. I wanted to give everybody a better perspective and also to help other people in their daily journey through life. This is what he did, and this is what I do to help get me through life. It will help anybody make it through life too."

Stanley named televangelists Oral Roberts and Rex Humbard as Presley's spiritual mentors before he died.

"When he was growing up, his mom and dad were always going to church. They went to church pretty much every Sunday. In fact, Vernon Presley told me he was a Bible school teacher," the writer said. "That's where he got the music from, watching the choirs and stuff like that in church. That's what moved him was the gospel music that he heard, and that's what made him want to sing."

When he asked Presley why he did not attend church, "He said, 'Billy, if I did, people would pay more attention to me than they would the pastor.'"

"He was right," Stanley concluded. "He would watch gospel shows on TV all the time, especially the gospel music shows. But like I said, he constantly read the Bible. Out of all the people I've ever met my whole life, this guy read it every day of his life. He was always in the Bible. So there was no question of where his faith was."

The last conversation they had was on August 14, 1977. Stanley recalled Presley asking him if he believed that "God forgives you for all your sins?"

Stanley responded in the affirmative. He said Presley replied, "Good, I just wanted to hear you say that.'"

"We just talked about life and love and his future plans. As I was leaving, he gave me a hug and said, 'I love you, Billy,' and I said, 'I love you too.' As I was walking down the stairs, he looked at me again and waved and said, 'I love you.' And I just kind of waved back and didn't think anything about it. ... He knew how much I loved him, and when I saw him in Heaven, that right there took all that worry and stuff away from me. The biggest thing for me was I was happy to see him there." 

Stanley concluded by saying that Presley discipled him and also tried to disciple his fans by sharing the gospel in the middle of each show.

"If you want to be like Elvis, and there's millions of people that want to be like him, all you got to do is pick up the Bible. It will tell you how to act just like him," Stanley contends.

The Faith of Elvis: A Story Only a Brother Can Tell is now available everywhere books are sold.

Jeannie Ortega Law is a reporter for The Christian Post. Reach her at: jeannie.law@christianpost.com She's also the author of the book, What Is Happening to Me? How to Defeat Your Unseen Enemy Follow her on Twitter: @jlawcp Facebook: JeannieOMusic

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