He's Been There, by Jelaire Richardson

I wrote this song while I was in the MTC and while learning just how often I fall short of perfection.

Guest post by Jelaire Richardson

This is a song I wrote about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I was called to the Belgium Brussels/Netherlands mission and reported to the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Utah. I was struggling with learning Dutch and sometimes felt like I didn’t deserve help learning the language because I wasn’t the perfect missionary. I wrote the lyrics based on a quote from Chieko Okazaki (reproduced at the bottom of this post) that I got in my Young Women class when I was about 14. The lyrics also grew out of my experience in the MTC. This is one of the only times in my life that I felt like lyrics came simply and powerfully to me.

Sister Okazaki’s quote changed the way I thought about the Atonement. I love the quote. I feel like it conveys a powerful message. We usually summarize the atonement by saying, “We are imperfect, so we need a Savior,” or, “Imperfect people need a Savior.” So I love how Chieko Okazaki takes a different approach by stating its inverse: “Perfect people do not need a Savior.” Isn’t it funny how a restatement of a phrase we’ve heard a million times makes us rethink things? I love it!



That’s what I hope to get across with this song: the Atonement works for you on a personal level because we wouldn’t need Him if we were perfect! I wanted to convey this in the video by showing the empty tomb during the line “He is there” to perhaps show the irony in it all: that it is because He’s actually not there in His tomb, that He can be there for us now. I included a couple of paintings in the slideshow showing the sacrament because I wanted to show that through partaking of the sacrament, “He is there” for us—meaning His spiritual presence (the Holy Ghost)—until one day we gain access to his temporal presence and can see him face to face (“At last I’ll see Him face to face, this ransomed child to claim”).

My friend Nicole Sheahan did the vocals in this recording, and it was produced by Jacob Luttrell.

He’s Been There, by Jelaire Richardson


The Son of God, with His charity unfeigned,
Declared to men who mocked their Lord, forgiveness unrestrained.
His gentle words, spoken with authority,
Were doubted still by those who did not have the eyes to see.

He suffered grief and trembled beyond the watch of heaven,
Alone he drank the bitter cup, to save the souls of men.
Now even with demands of justice satisfied,
His boundless mercy reaches all who in His love abide.

He is with you always, watching over you; He knows all your pain.
Perfect people do not need a Savior; hope is not in vain.
He’s been there. He is there.

At times I ask, in my own Gethsemane,
If my own prideful blindness would impede His love for me.
His sacrifice fills my heart with the belief
That though I’ve strayed, I’m not beyond His grasp of sweet relief.

Chorus & Bridge

When Christ shall come and in His mighty glory reign,
At last I’ll see Him face to face — this ransomed child to claim.
I know I will, after all is said and done,
Kneel at His feet; cry tears of joy — the victory finally won.

He is with you always, watching over you; He knows all your pain.
Perfect people do not need a Savior; hope is not in vain.


Quotes from Church leaders that inspired the lyrics

Chieko N. Okazaki, Lighten Up!, pp. 174–75.

We know that on some level Jesus experienced the totality of mortal existence in Gethsemane. It’s our faith that he experienced everything – absolutely everything. Sometimes we don’t think through the implications of that belief. We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family. But we don’t experience pain in generalities. We experience it individually. That mean Jesus knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer – how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes locked, and the car started to skid. He experienced the slave ship sailing from Ghana toward Virginia. He experienced napalm in Vietnam. He knows about drug addiction and alcoholism.

There is nothing you have experienced as a woman that he does not also know and recognize. On a profound level, he understands about pregnancy and giving birth. He knows about PMS and cramps and menopause. He understands about rape and infertility and abortion.

His last recorded words to his disciples were, “And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. 28:20.) What does that mean? It means he understands your mother-pain when your five-year-old leaves for kindergarten, when a bully picks on your fifth-grader, when your daughter calls to say that the new baby has Down’s syndrome. He knows your mother-rage when a trusted babysitter sexually abuses your two-year-old, when someone gives your thirteen-year-old drugs, when someone seduces your seventeen-year-old. He knows the pain you live with when you come home to a quite apartment where the only children who ever come are visitors, when you hear that your former husband and his new wife were sealed in the temple last week, when your fiftieth wedding anniversary rolls around and your husband has been dead for two years. He knows all that. He’s been there. He’s been lower than all that.

He’s not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don’t need a Savior. He came to save us in our imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He’s not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief.

Boyd K. Packer (acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles), Special Witnesses of Christ (DVD)

In the Gethsemanes of life which we all have, and often in my present calling, I have gone to my knees with a humble spirit to the only place I could for help. I often went in agony of spirit, earnestly pleading with God to sustain me in the work I have come to appreciate more than life itself. I have, on occasion, felt a terrible aloneness of the wounds of the heart, of the sweet agony, the buffetings of Satan, and the encircling warm comfort of the Spirit of the Master.

I have also felt the crushing burden, the self-doubts of inadequacy and unworthiness, the fleeting feeling of being forsaken, then of being reinforced an hundredfold. I have climbed a spiritual Mount Sinai dozens of times, seeking to communicate and to receive instructions. It has been as though I have struggled up an almost real Mount of Transfiguration and, upon occasion, felt great strength and power in the presence of the Divine. A special, sacred feeling has been a sustaining influence and often a close companion.