Elvis almost LDS?

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

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

"The Book of Mormon provides the pearls of wisdom and hope that hold the film together," he said. "Beyond the book, there are many other aspects of Elvis' life that we explore in the story. There are some beautiful musical performances as well, but the film focuses on Elvis' spiritual journey first, personal relationships second and music third.

"The 'chain of evidence' is pretty well documented to show that the book was indeed owned by Elvis," Diamond said.

According to Starling, LDS Church archives officials did not allow the film crew to take the book from its facility, but they were allowed to bring their cameras there and film in a room set aside for them.

"We shot inserts of Matt Lewis in costume reading the book. These shots will be inserted into scenes we shot in the studio in Orem," Starling said.

He also stressed the research done for the film. The movie crew videotaped an interview with Bobby Kauo, who gave the LDS missionary discussions to Elvis when Presley was in Hawaii to film "Paradise Hawaiian Style."

Genuine or fake?

Ken Sanders, who owns Ken Sanders Rare Books in Salt Lake City, said the Elvis book could easily be worth $5,000 to $10,000, if it is indeed authentic. That's pretty good for a soft-cover Book of Mormon of that period, generally worth $5 to $6.

He said $100,000 is the most any early Book of Mormon has been worth to date. However, Sanders said he remains skeptical the book was truly Elvis'.

"All my initial instincts are it's a forgery," he said, after examining four pictures showing pages from the book.

Sanders' philosophy is a book is a fake until proven genuine. He also believes more handwriting samples would have to be available from the book to test it thoroughly enough.

He said a woman came into his store just last week with two copies of the Book of Mormon reputed to have been owned by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Diamond believes the Elvis Book of Mormon to be genuine. He said Alan Osmond has a certificate of authenticity for it. However, Diamond is working with a handwriting expert in hopes of bolstering its authenticity.

Grant A. Anderson, church history specialist in the LDS Archives, confirmed the archives do have a book reputed to be Elvis Presley's, a 1976 edition common in its day.

"All we know is what has been told to us," Anderson said. He stressed that the book's history of transfer looks consistent and logical, but the church has conducted no handwriting tests on it.

Anderson said the church has copies of early Book of Mormon editions, but it is not common to have celebrity-owned copies like this.

Alan Osmond told the Morning News in an e-mail that he did receive the Elvis Book of Mormon from Cricket Butler.

"I interviewed her on cassette tape, had her sign a letter of authenticity and saw pictures of her with Elvis. She said Elvis had talked about the Osmonds and would have wanted us to have it. We had a private barbecue scheduled by Elvis at his house a couple of weeks after he died. We also knew him, met him, conversed with him and have had personal conversations with him."

Regarding the Book of Mormon's transfer to the church, Osmond said: "I did give the book to the LDS Church via my wife's cousin, Elder Rex Pinegar (now an emeritus member of the Seventy). This was for safety's sake, to protect Elvis' privacy, and to preserve the sacredness of this book! Several people that knew I had it were too anxious to see it and touch it. So I put it in a very safe place — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (archives)."

Former Salt Lake City police forensics expert George Throckmorton said he hasn't seen the book but understands there may actually be two separate "Elvis Books of Mormon" out there.

Diamond said Elvis apparently received another copy from the late Ed Parker, who was his karate instructor and bodyguard.

E-mail: lynn@desnews.com

Get The Deseret News Everywhere