Elvis almost LDS?

Upcoming film indicates singer had a Book of Mormon, wanted baptism

Published: Monday, Oct. 2 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

A Book of Mormon reportedly owned by Elvis resides in the LDS Church Office Building. Report spawned a movie.

Robert Starling

Has Elvis been sighted in Utah County? And did that Book of Mormon archived on the second floor of the LDS Church Office Building once belong to the king of rock 'n' roll?

A Book of Mormon — possibly Elvis Presley's personal copy, reputed to have been in his room when he died — is indeed in the archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And a new Elvis movie is being filmed in Utah, inspired by that archived Book of Mormon and the story behind it.

"Tears of a King" is being directed by filmmaker Rob Diamond, who also wrote the screenplay. The movie is set for release next year to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Presley's death on Aug. 16, 1977.

The movie is being produced by 7 Films 7 of Salt Lake City in association with Matthew Reese Films of Orem. The producers of the film are Diamond, Joshua Pearson and Kels Goodman. Reese is the executive producer.

The background story goes like this:

The Book of Mormon was given to the LDS Church by members of the Osmond family, who received it from a woman named Cricket Butler, according to Diamond. Butler, a friend of Elvis, gave the Book of Mormon to him in the months preceding his death. The book was subsequently returned to Butler by Elvis' father, Vernon, two days after Elvis' death.

"She sat in on the missionary discussions at Graceland and knows the date Elvis was to be baptized, which never came to pass due to Elvis' death," Diamond said.

That baptism date will be revealed in a separate documentary being produced by 7 Films 7, to be released at the same time as the feature film. It will also feature interviews with Alan Osmond and other friends, fans and missionaries sharing their experiences with Elvis.

Elvis is being portrayed in the new theatrical movie by actor Matt Lewis, who bears a strong physical resemblance to him.

Lewis even sings several songs in the film, and visitors to the movie set have found it hard to distinguish Lewis' singing voice from actual Elvis recordings, according to Robert Starling, associate producer of the movie.

The first few days of shooting were completed in a replica of Presley's bedroom that was created from floor plans and photos of the original at Graceland, which has been sealed since Elvis' death.

"The entire film has been meticulously researched and is authentic down to minute details such as items found on tabletops and shelves in the room," Starling said.

Misunderstood man

"It is well known that Elvis Presley was a devout Christian who had deep religious convictions despite his personal weaknesses and struggles with a Hollywood lifestyle that was thrust upon him at an early age," Starling said. "What is lesser known is that he reportedly met on several occasions with missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that he studied carefully the Book of Mormon."

Much of his life and career will be retold in flashback sequences in the movie.

"I spent many months pouring my soul into the screenplay," Diamond told the Deseret Morning News. "The Book of Mormon changed my life as a young man, and I believe this movie will help people understand that it did the same for Elvis in the latter days of his life."

However, Diamond stressed, "this movie is not about preaching to people. It's a universal story about a wonderful man who was very misunderstood."

Diamond said the movie explores many areas of Elvis' life and will be entertaining and enlightening for all, regardless of religion.

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