A prime motivating reason to build a temple at this time was their belief that they would soon be asked by the Lord to return to Jackson County, Missouri to build a temple there when Jesus Christ returns for his second coming. They needed to prepare for this by learning how to build a temple. The FLDS claim roots back to the early Mormon era when temples were built in Kirtland, Ohio, Nauvoo, Illinois, and in Utah: St. George, Manti, Logan, and Salt Lake City. It seemed reasonable to assume they would have similarities to those buildings.
Warren found the YFZ property in 2003. He claimed that the Lord directed him to the spot and told him to purchase the 1,691 acres. They purchased the property claiming it would be used for a hunting retreat. But on March 25,2004, the truth was learned, the FLDS was building a community. Warren had identified the locations for both the temple and the quarry. Just as Brigham Young had done for the Salt Lake Temple, Jeffs had walked around the property and put down a marker to identify where the temple would be built.
In early 2004, the cornerstones were laid for the temple. Warren patterned the procedure and dedication roughly after the procedure used by Joseph Smith for the Nauvoo Temple in 1841. First the southeast corner stone was laid and dedicated, most likely by the First Presidency (Jeffs, Jessop, and Nielson). Next the Southwest corner stone, then the northwest and finally the northeast, probably by the Bishop (Merril Jessop). In Joseph Smith’s day one of the stones was dedicated by the apostles, but because of the FLDS “one man rule” doctrine, there is no need for apostles.
The YFZ property and the temple construction were funded by liquidating some valuable UEP property within ten miles of Short Creek. (Priesthood Record, May 15, 2005)
Before starting to do any work on the temple, Warren instructed that all the structures built by former owner must be removed. They burned the wood deer feeders and removed the ashes from the property. The barn was removed, loaded up and hauled away. They tilled the ground to show no traces of it. Apparently they wanted no traces left from the former unworthy land owners.
As construction began, Warren ignored laws regarding permits and protecting the environment. On May 11, 2004, a representative from the Environmental protection department was turned away at the gate. He was told that this was their land and that he would not be allowed in. They claimed that authorities had shown a “spirit of persecution, looking for any so-called infraction against the rules” to try to stop them. They were willing to communicate with authorities, but were determined to go forward with the building project. (Priesthood Record, May 11, 2004).
Later, because of government pressure, the FLDS did start seeking some permits. But in 2006, the FLDS assessed $34,000 in fines for environmental violations. These were for failing to get permits or approved plans for a sewage system, an injection well, a concrete plant, waste dumping, disposal of used oil and bulk mineral storage. The FLDS are very experienced in doing commercial construction and knew the laws well. In this case, they apparently felt above the law, and just did what Warren pleased.
Warren did not have a complete design in mind in the beginning. He believed he needed to received that from the Lord and he recorded struggles to know details about the temple design. On May 11, 2004 he recorded: “I described how there would be four levels – a full basement where the baptismal font would be, then there would be a first floor, the telestial floor, the second floor, the terrestrial floor, and the top floor a celestial floor; and in the celestial floor would be the rooms for the school of prophets and that even many of them could be allowed to be part of the school of the prophets. I described to them that a school of the prophets is a training for men how to come into the presence of God, and this is what they were earning.” (Priesthood Record, May 11, 2004)
The reference to telestial, terrestrial, and celestial levels have reference to the levels of heaven in FLDS beliefs. Levels in the temple have some consistency with the early Mormon temples, however those temples did not have floors representing each level, so this is a new FLDS departure. Texas Ranger Aaron Grigsby described the interior of the completed YFZ Temple. He said the first level was earth-tone and the second level was white and sky blue with blue furniture. The third level was all white with white carpet and walls.
The idea of having a room for a School of Prophets has parallels to the first Mormon temple in Kirtland, Ohio, which conducted a School of Prophets in that temple in the 1830s. The scriptures that the FLDS use, named Doctrine and Covenants, has sections that give instructions about the Kirtland Temple and of how to conduct the school of prophets. (See D&C section 88).
The importance of this section of scripture to the FLDS even led them to engrave D&C 88:119 on the eventually completed temple. It reads: "Organize Yourselves, Prepare Every Needful Thing, And Establish A House, Even A House of Prayer, A House of Fasting, A House of Faith, A House of Learning, A House of Glory, A House of Order, A House Of God."
During May, 2004, Warren continued to reveal more about the temple design. “The Lord is showing gradually how He wants the temple to be build, the color of the flooring on each floor, the chairs. The celestial room [holiest room on the top level] will have chairs that are separate from each other. As far as I remember it was the telestial room [room on the first floor] the chairs would be connected and fold up and down, almost like benches. They would be like the theater chairs, they fold up and down, like the choir chairs in the meeting house at Short Creek, in the telestial room. The terrestrial room [room on the second floor] has not been revealed except that the furniture, the carpet and chairs should be a light green in the telestial room In the terrestrial room, it should be a light blue, in the celestial room, it should be white.”
"Besides the circular staircase in the design of the building like the Manti temple, where is to be another staircase in the building. From the telestial to terrestrial room, it is to be light blue flooring, or carpet. From the terrestrial to the celestial the staircase is to be a white carpet. So once they step toward the celestial room, it has white flooring.” (Priesthood Record, May 20, 2004) The design implies that participants in the FLDS temple rites would make a progression between these rooms using stair cases.
“On the telestial floor there should be four other rooms besides the large room – two records rooms, one office, and one sitting room, like a praying room.” (Priesthood Record, June, 2004)
The lowest level, basement, would include a baptismal font. The font would be used to perform both baptisms for the living and the dead. The FLDS decided to start doing proxy baptisms for the dead as described in their Doctrine and Covenants. “The baptismal font should rest on three foot cube blocks and the bowel should be made out of cement, six inches at the top and one foot thick down in the bottom middle, which dips down between the blocks. And the platform walking into the font will be five feet off the floor and the ceiling above would be seven and a half feet above that making the ceiling there twelve and a half feet.” (Priesthood Record, June 2004)
This is another departure from the early Mormon temples. All those temples (except Kirtland) had baptismal fonts resting on twelve oxen. This departure is probably because the FLDS just didn’t have the time or skills to do ornate sculptures such as oxen.
Ground was to be broken on May 16, 2004, but it was apparently posponed. By June, the men were still searching for the right rock to build the temple with. They explained to Warren that they had searched the entire property but had not found clear white rock, free from voids, seashell, or marble patterns. Warren was not satisfied and told them to dig deeper, that the Lord had told him that the white rock was there. When they took a look at the southeast cornerstone again, they observed that by being in the sunlight, it had become more brightly white.
In June 2004, Warren started to give specific instructions about the foundation, allowing them to make plans to start construction. “The foundation would be fourteen feet tall, seven blocks of two foot size each." The foundation would be six feet thick. "Since then the Lord showed me there would be a vault build in the basement also. I gave him [Edmund Barlow] the details that the stairs should be between twelve and eight feet wide – twelve feet at the bottom, eight feet wide at the top, a circular stairway, like an arch, not a true circle.”
Apparently the vault was later moved to an annex building, a small building that connects to the temple with a bridge walkway. Warren gave instructions to build the annex in August, 2005.
As utility lines were planned for, Warren instructed that no utilities should be buried in the road base. He explained that the future city of Zion (in Jackson County, Missouri) would have streets paved with gold, so they shouldn't disturb the roads in this city either. One big difference for YFZ: In this city, the roads would be paved with cement, not gold.
Warren believed that the Lord had revealed to him a new secret formula for cement that would be stronger and last far longer than the world’s cement. He ordered that this should be very safe-guarded secret because if the formula was discovered by others, it would “disrupt all the money making in that industry.” In this secret formula there would be no sand used. Warren showed what the secret formula was: “One part pumice, two parts lava powder, and one part cement – that was the grout we did. Then we went further and mixed the gravel.” He placed the worker under an oath and covenant to “keep sacred and secret this mixture and also that we must keep it private for our very life’s sake because . . . the world, in its greed, would come against us and try to take it or stop the development of these better materials.”
Well, the secret cement formula was a failure. Warren then says the Lord told him the missing ingredient was white sand near the gulf of Mexico. But still, he couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working. Finally, in typical Warren fashion, he blamed others. He charged Jim Jessop for betraying the secret formula to three other workers. Finally, as is typical with Warren’s failed revelations, he declared that this was just a test. “I can see that in the cement mixture test, the Lord gave us a formula that was not the true formula, just to see if we would keep confidence, to test us to see if we could be trusted with the right formula. And I don’t know if He has even told us the right ingredients or not, but He tested us, and that confidence has been betrayed. . . . I now see more clearly why the Lord has not revealed the design of the temple because we would betray Him and His secrets.” Warren blamed the entire “Zion’s Camp” at YFZ for being sinful and demanded that they all repent and send him letters of confession. “I have felt the Lord’s displeasure towards the New Zion’s Camp. I pray the Lord to forgive them as far as they can repent and allow this mission to go forward.” (Priesthood Record, July 12, 2004)
It appears from this incident that Warren was copying an event in history from the first Zion’s Camp back in 1834 when Joseph Smith had to call his camp to repentance because of their rebellion and fault-finding. He warned that the camp would suffer a scourge, and they did when cholera broke out. Cholera didn’t break out on Warren’s Zion’s Camp, but some did have to suffer the courge of Warren after he read their letters of confession. Several would have to return to Short Creek.
In July 2004, suitable rock had still not been located. Warren, away in hiding, ordered that a three-day fast be held pleading with the Lord to perform a miracle. On July 25, 2004, back at YFZ, Warren was still struggling with the temple design and finding the temple rock. He took a four-wheeler and drove to each corner of the YFZ propery. At each corner he knelt down, and offered a rededication prayer, “rededicating this land as a sacred place for the Lord to dwell and a temple to be built.” He visited Allen Steed at the temple site quarry who showed him cores drilled from 50 feet below ground. The rock was all broken up and not solid. He felt that the stone had to be found by August 1st. On July 26, Warren believed the Lord told him where the quarry should be on the west side of the property. He gathered the leaders to dedicate the spot with a circle prayer. Hard rock was found at that location.
Twelve men were named to be called on a special mission as temple builders at the end of July. Edmund Allred was named the temple architect. At the beginning of September, Warren called additional temple builders, some who were young men as young as 13-years old who were expected to put in many hours of labor each week. They started work pouring footings, hauling rock, working in the sawmill, and putting water and power lines in. October 1, was the goal to start laying the stone.
The young temple builders were given grave warnings about their work: “Before you receive
this setting apart on a mission, you must understand the importance of this work that to be allowed to participate to build the temple you must keep sacred things secret, even to where you don't inquire all the details unless you need to know. The penalty of breaking this covenant is the loss of Priesthood and of your eternal blessings. To even know where the rooms are, the size of the rooms, and what goes into a temple, the furniture, the placement of the decorations, the colors and so on, to even name that where you are not appointed, you could be a traitor unto God and lose your place.” (Priesthood Record, September 8, 2004).
Warren explained somewhat about other ordinances the temple builders would need to one day have a higher calling as a temple worker. 1. Having the love of God sealed in your mind and heart. 2. Become acquainted with the all consuming fire from heaven in oneness with the Keyholder (Warren). 3. Holy anointings. “That prepares you to go into the temple and be a temple worker. So to be a temple worker where you can go inside the temple and administer the temple ordinances is another calling that you must earn.” (Priesthood Record, September 8, 2004).
Warren gave strong warning about never allowing wicked people (unbelievers) on the temple site which explains why the men formed a human chain in front of the temple when government officials came to enter it. "If any wicked person goes on the temple site . . . he will reject us and he will destroy this place. He will not come into unclean temples, so it will be your responsibility to defend that which is sacred." (Priesthood Record, September 8, 2004).
Warren taught that contrary to what the Mormons do, they would not open their temple to the public to come and look at it before it was dedicated. It must be kept sacred and secret. No one must know how it was constructed, the position of rooms, furniture, decorations, colors used, etc.
On January 1, 2005, author Jon Karkauer flew over the temple site and observed what looked like a dedication meeting. The foundation was complete, ready for the building walls to be raised. As the plane flew over, the crowd quickly huddled together around the speaker as if to protect him. Close up photographs show a man that looked like the fugitive, Warren Jeffs.
On January 10, Warren was traveling in Southern California. He called in to check on the progress with temple architect, Edmond Barrlow. "'Surely the foundation is finished now?' He said, 'No.' The equipment broke down. At least 300 yards was not poured and they now have a cold joint in the cement foundation. . . . They were just starting the pouring again." Warren blamed the delay on unfaithfulness, lack of unity. "Zion's Camp fell short again." I called up Wendell Nielsen, his counselor there, to crack the whip.
It is believed that Warren originally hoped to have the temple complete by April, 2005, but construction and adjustments were still being made after that. The inside of the temple was complete on August 13, 2005. Warren reviewed every detail about the temple planning, even looking at carpet samples and approved chair designs. Warren hadn’t liked the drapes uses, so they were replaced. “The new white drapes replacing the old ones, the new ones have a more majestic, beautiful look. I told him that the old drapes should not be used elsewhere. They should be burned. I told him where to put the extra arm chairs that were blue in the second floor hallway, scattered about neatly for people to sit and wait for their training sessions. (Priesthood Record, August 13, 2005)
Another building, the meeting house, a white building across from the temple also started contruction in May 2004. It would include an “an upstairs ordinance area” (44X35), a meeting room (44x80), with a little “sound room” probably used to record meetings and lessons. Building the meeting house was a test to see if they would be worthy to be called as temple builders. Once completed, the ordinance room in the meeting house was used to perform some temple ordinances before the temple was complete.