“In the summer of 1890, Patriarchs and Prophets, the first volume in what would finally be called the Conflict of the Ages set, was released. Two years before, the revised and enlarged edition of The Great Controversy (eventually the fifth and last volume of the Conflict set) had been published. Work had begun on “The Life of Christ,” which became The Desire of Ages (the third in the Conflict set). In addition, week after week Ellen White and her assistants prepared articles for the Review and Herald, Signs of the Times, and Youth’s Instructor.
Then came a request for smaller books that could be sold in book stores or distributed by evangelists in their public meetings. Literature on the subject of conversion was especially needed. Ellen White knew that this was the time for presenting in book form one of her favorite topics. She had spoken and written often, in simple, clear terms, about the steps sinners must take in finding their way to Christ. Now Marian Davis (“my bookmaker”) was assigned the work of gathering from Mrs. White’s diaries, manuscripts (published and unpublished), periodical articles, and previous books those materials that would make up the proposed chapters. With the materials before her, Mrs. White would often recognize that more was needed to fill out each chapter’s thought. To meet this need and to provide necessary transitions, she would compose additional material.
Marian Davis gathered materials and organized them (no small task) but did no writing. Ellen White did the writing and supervised the arrangement of her books. The work went slowly because of all her other writing and speaking commitments. In 1891 the manuscript was presented to a convention of ministers and teachers at Harbor Heights, Michigan, where it was read with great enthusiasm. At this meeting it was decided that the book should be called Steps to Christ. Further, it was strongly suggested that it be published by a nondenominational publishing house for wider circulation in the popular book stores—a proposal that Fleming H. Revell accepted gladly.
In 1896 the Review and Herald Publishing Association bought the copyright from Revell. After the copyright was transferred to Ellen White in 1908, she immediately assigned to the General Conference all rights in all languages other than English.
The first editions did not contain the present first chapter, “God’s Love for Man.” But after writing Manuscript 41, 1892, Ellen White quickly agreed that it would provide an appropriate beginning for the already best-seller” (Herbert Douglass, Messenger of the Lord, 444-445).