I don't know if the topic of polygamy even belongs on this blog, but I do know that several of us who enjoy discussing the issues on this blog have also tried to figure out that whole polygamy thing. Evan read me Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Plural Marriage* (*but were afraid to ask) from the FAIR site one night while I was sewing. It was quite interesting.
You might enjoy it, too. Quite a lot of good research there.
11/15/10. After reading Julie Beck's talk on Teaching the Doctrine of the Family, I think I now have even more understanding of why early Mormons practiced polygamy. If you lived in a society where your ultimate goal was to have the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (great posterity and being sealed in the temple), and you could only get that through being married and having children, wouldn't you do all you could to be married and have children?
At that time, from what I understand, there were more female members of the church than males. Therefore, there wouldn't be enough men to go around. Also, what if a husband died? What if a husband left? The natural answer could be polygamy: it provided the benefits of family life to those who wanted it.
As Joseph Smith was trying to restore all things to a modern church, polygamy would naturally be one of those things he would ask about. Maybe God said, go ahead and try it -- although Biblical polygamy seemed to be somewhat culturally based -- because it had the potential to bless the lives of many so they could enjoy the blessings of family life on earth.
So why is this topic of polygamy so intriguing to me? I love history. I minored in it. I volunteer as a historical interpreter where I "interpret" at a polygamists home (although we don't emphasize polygamy; we focus on daily pioneer activities). I also have at least two absolutely fantastic great-something grandmothers who were second wives, and I just wonder what they thought about all of it.