The talks collected here represent a synthesis of the secular and the sacred. Through that synthesis, Thomas encourages us to become grown-ups. "Goals without Goads" is a superior example of his approach. In this talk, Thomas urges scholars to "add gospel insights to carefully honed, fundamental skills." He argues that as we integrate secular learning and the gospel, we will freely obey God and escape the shackles of selfishness. Such informed obedience is the difference between being an adult and a self-absorbed child. In addition, such obedience provides us the opportunity to experience joy.
Robert K. Thomas (1918–1998) served the BYU community for thirty-two years as an English professor, founder and director of the Honors Program, and academic vice president. He received the distinction of becoming the first BYU Presidential Fellow. In 1961, students selected him as Professor of the Year, and in 1966 he received the Karl G. Maeser Award for Teaching Excellence. He taught American literature, the Bible as literature, and Book of Mormon religion classes. With Bruce B. Clark he coauthored the five-volume compilation Out of the Best Books, designed for study by the Relief Society. He served as a Latter-day Saint bishop, stake president, and president of the Australia Melbourne Mission.