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Was The King baptized in two beliefs?

By: David Waters
Source: The Commercial Appeal
July 20, 2000
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Was The King baptized in two beliefs? Spinoff church's pastor says yes - Here's an Elvis story you haven't heard.

Elvis was baptized twice - once in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and once in the name of Jesus only. Is it true? No one seems to know for sure.

Does it matter? That depends on which side of the great Pentecostal divide you come down on.

Elvis Presley's Pentecostal roots were deep. His parents met in a Pentecostal church. His great-uncles co-pastored one. Elvis was baptized in one when he was about 9.

He was rebaptized in another one a few years later, according to Rev. Rex Dyson, still preaching Pentecostal revivals at age 100.

Dyson said he rebaptized Elvis and his parents, Vernon and Gladys, in Memphis sometime around 1950.

'I don't remember what year it was, but Elvis must have been about 14', said Dyson, who lives with his wife in a tidy trailer in Raleigh.

'I don't like to talk about it. It's controversial'.

Controversial not because it was Elvis, but because of a vicious doctrinal dispute that has divided the Pentecostal world for decades.

Dyson is a Oneness Pentecostal, which according to many other Pentecostals is the same thing as a heretic.

Oneness Pentecostals reject the traditional Christian doctrine of the Trinity - the belief that in one God there are three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Why? Well, for one thing, they say the word Trinity isn't in the Bible. They also say the doctrine of the Trinity - difficult even for theologians to explain - can be misunderstood to suggest a belief in three gods.

As a result, Oneness Pentecostals reject baptisms that use the triune formula found in Matthew 28:19: 'Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit'.

Instead, Oneness believers use Peter's instructions in Acts 2:28: 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'.

Pentecostals generally don't view water baptism as essential to salvation. But some of the more rigid believers say you can't get into heaven with the wrong name on your baptized soul.

For Oneness Pentecostals, there's only one name that works:

'We baptise in the name of Jesus', Dyson explained.

'You don't got the blood until you got the name. And Jesus is the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost'.

That's the sort of talk that got 156 Oneness preachers branded heretics and expelled from the Assemblies of God denomination in 1916.

The Oneness preachers returned the insults, saying their foes subscribed to 'three-Godism'. Many went on to form separate Pentecostal churches and denominations.

There are about 17 million Oneness Pentecostals in the world.

Was Elvis one of them?

It's possible but doubtful given the Presley family's ties to the Assemblies of God.

Elvis' parents met in 1933 in the First Assembly of God in East Tupelo, Miss. Gladys's uncles, Sims and Gains Mansell, were co-pastors.

Young Elvis was water baptized in that church in 1943 or 1944, according to biographers. That's where he first learned to rock and roll.

'Ministers played guitars, gyrated, and danced wildly while parishioners rolled in aisles, feverishly jumping about, and spoke in tongues', Patricia Jobe Pierce wrote in The Ultimate Elvis.

The Presley's moved to Memphis in 1948, when Elvis was 13. Dyson said it wasn't long after that when Elvis and his parents began worshiping at his Church of Jesus Christ on Seventh Street at Saffarans.

The Presley's lived in several places around that time, all within a few blocks of Dyson's church.

'Vernon and Gladys heard me preach about baptism a few times, then they came to me and said they wanted to be baptized in the name of Jesus', Dyson said.

'Next Sunday morning, I baptized Vernon and then Gladys. Elvis was watching from the side. He walked over to the baptistry, while his mama and daddy were still in the water, and he said, `I want to be baptized like that'.

'So, I baptized Elvis in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ'.

Dyson's church was sold to another congregation many years ago, and the concrete baptistry has long since been taken out and carted off to the dump. Sorry, souvenir hunters.

Dyson doesn't remember if he gave the Presley's a certificate of baptism. He seems to be the only person who remembers Elvis' rebaptism.

LaVonne Gaw, a researcher for Graceland, has no records of Elvis being baptized anywhere, but she plans to investigate.

'It's an interesting question', she said.

Patsy Presley Geranen said she knows her cousin Elvis was baptized at least once.

'I'm pretty sure he was baptized in Tupelo, but I don't know if he was ever baptized in Memphis', she said.

George Klein, a charter member of Elvis' Memphis Mafia, met Elvis at Hume's High in the early 1950s.

'I hadn't heard that one, but I guess it's possible', Klein said.

Dixie Locke Emmons, Elvis' first girlfriend, met him in 1954 at the First Assembly of God in Memphis. They had Easter dinner together that year, and also attended an Oral Roberts crusade.

'I don't remember him ever talking about being baptized in Memphis. I know he was never baptized at our church', said Emmons, First Assembly's secretary.

Dyson said he's not making it up.

'I may be old but I'm not dead', he said.

'I can't say whether Elvis is in heaven. I don't want to be judgmental. But I believe Elvis was real Christ-minded and I believe he knew what he was doing'.

Whether Elvis was baptized once or twice, though, one thing seems certain.

His soul was clearly marked 'Return to Sender'.

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