God’s Love is Like a Hot Towel

A memorable Himalayan metaphor to lift the soul

Annie Van Orman

Trekking in the Nepali Himalayas can offer a wide range of stories and memories to share, and in 2011 I was fortunate enough to join a few family members on a 19-day hike. While the narrative of that adventure is a good one, it is not the tale I would like to tell. This is a story about fruit and hot towels.

Annie Van Orman

During our sojourn we stopped every evening at a tea house, which served as our accommodation. Each evening our guide would prepare a plate of fruit for us, cut up, and arranged neatly on a platter. My general indifference toward fruit meant I was mostly uninterested in the offering. I would politely eat one or two pieces, while secretly wishing it was a Big Mac.

Near the end of our journey we found ourselves in a particularly dim tea house, in the village of Pheriche, high in the Himalayas. This tea house was like many of the others we had visited. Modest, yet comfortable. Fruit was offered, and I wished for a bag of chips.

Trekking Himalayas

Our small group of hikers seemed more somber this evening. We were on the 80th km of a 120 km trek. It was day 10 of what was beginning to seem like an endless expedition.

By now most of us hadn’t seen a shower for the last 50 km. We had used, then reused, all our socks and clean shirts. Clean underwear was also scarce. Mental and emotional fatigue was at an all-time high. We had grown tired of the same company and conversation. Things seemed quiet. We were all beginning to feel our physical, mental, and emotional strains more acutely.

Hot Towel

A tray of hot towels

Silently we stared across the shadowy tea house. Then a sight to behold! A mirage! A tray of hot towels! All eyes locked onto this beautiful vision. There was nothing so wonderful or anything we desired more. We all desperately wanted a hot towel.

We shyly asked our guide if we could have a hot towel, and he shortly returned with a tray of perfectly rolled, perfectly damp, hot towels. Taking them in our hands we gently pressed them to our faces. Oh, the exquisite joy we felt! The warmth! We giggled at the absurdity of how incredible this simple gift felt. We moved from our faces to our neck, our hands and arms, and lastly our feet. The once white towels were now, as you can imagine, quite soiled. Somehow our souls felt restored. Soon we were visiting and laughing once again, no longer pinned down by the weight of our exhaustion.

Tree of Life

Lehi’s vision of the tree of life

Years after this experience I was reading in the Book of Mormon about Lehi’s vision of the tree of life. Due to my general apathy toward fruit I had never been able to appreciate or buy into the idea that a piece of fruit could be as enticing as Lehi describes. In his account we learn that the fruit of the tree “was desirable above all other fruit” (1Nephi 8:12). The words “desirable” and “desirous” are used continually to illustrate how one might feel about the fruit of the tree of life.

As I read Lehi’s account, with my usual snort of “fruit, yea right,” four simple words appeared in my mind. “Remember the hot towel.” My mind was immediately flooded with the memory and feelings of a hot towel in the Himalayas. The Spirit then helped me understand.

I first recalled how powerful my desire was to have that hot towel. I would have paid any sum of money to have it. However, it cost me nothing.

Jesus little children

Of course, we know that the fruit of the tree of life is a representation of God’s love, which has the power to change lives. God’s love is given freely, without price, to all who desire it. “Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price” (2 Nephi 26:25).

I remembered the feelings of warmth and comfort when I took the hot towel in my hands and applied it to my face. Like Lehi and his fruit, this hot towel “filled my soul with exceedingly great joy” (1 Nephi 8:12). We wholeheartedly laughed at how something so ordinary could make us feel clean and whole again.

The gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ

Jesus Praying

Perhaps the most significant representation of God’s love is the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and the access we have to that power. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son. . .” (John 3:16). Through Christ we are given the ultimate gift of repentance, and it is once again given freely to all those desirous to partake.

Reflecting on that simple hot towel I am reminded once again of the simplicity and purity of God’s love when represented through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Similar to a hot towel, the Atonement of Christ has the power to wash away our spiritual dust and grime. Some of the dust from our travels might be acquired from walking strange roads, or perhaps from being lost for a time. Other grime is due to regular obstacles we may stumble over, even on the well-worn path that appears to be straight and narrow. In either case, a hot towel will clean and refresh without prejudice. For God’s love is “liberal to all, both young and old, both bond and free . . . having no respect to persons as to those who [stand] in need” (Alma 1:30).

Annie Van Orman

It is my deepest desire that as I use the Atonement of Christ in my life, my metaphorical hot towel, may I wash my face so that I can better receive His image in my countenance (Alma 5:14). May I clean my hands as often as necessary in preparation to serve those in need, and continually hold fast to the rod (1 Nephi 8:30). And may I keep my feet spotless as I journey through life, on a path that is hopefully both straight and narrow.