Leaving aside the implications of polygamy as to the lessened value of males to society and to families, the other question that arises is just what is polygamy? While some are bothered by the fact that Joseph Smith engaged in polygamy, others are perturbed by the fact that he had so few children by anyone other than his first wife. As the recent DNA studies reflect, he and Emma buried more children than the other women had with Joseph between them.
Which of course highlights the fact that they had other children and felt free to marry after he died, with no criticism of their choices or directions. Not only were women free to marry others after the death of their husbands, it is notable that Brigham Young’s wives were able to easily divorce him, and that the rule for much of his life in Utah was that a woman could freely leave a polygamous marriage, though a man could not. That is an unusual double standard for a polygamous society (where the standard is usually that the men can divorce at a word and the women have few rights at all). But polygamy in LDS culture did not function as ownership of women, a dramatic change from the typical role polygamy has.
Instead, looking at the functional place of polygamy in early LDS culture, polygamy did several things. First, it prevented assimilation at a crucial point. Compared to the RLDS, the LDS remained a group that was peculiar for much longer. Without polygamy, the persecution of the LDS Church would have probably been much less of an isolating force.
Second, it changed the LDS Church into the Mormon ethnic group and it did that in a matter of generations rather than hundreds of years. Mormons as an ethnic group probably is what caused the Church to survive. After all, by 1960 or so, Sacrament meeting attendance was at about 10% of membership, the law of chastity was considered the 14th most important commandment, and missionary work was starting to seem irrelevant to many members.
Most bloggers seem to be from an age group when the LDS Church has left its ethnic identity behind, when activity rates are at around 50% and where the balance of observances has changed a great deal (the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity, for example, being much more observed and important, ward basketball no longer being the primary sacrament of the faith).
But, without polygamy there is a good chance that the LDS Church could not have withstood assimilation, much as the law of Moses kept the Jews from assimilation to provide a people for the Christ to be born among.
But beyond the transitory application (one that Jacob addresses in passing in his sermon in the Book of Mormon as to why God will allow polygamy from time to time), when we deal with non-fallen humanity as we will be in the resurrection, polygamy (in the sense of people of both sexes sealed to multiple individuals) seems to be more of a social connection, binding us together, than a territorial sexual license.
Admittedly, that makes it seem that sex, like carnivorous activity, isn’t the same in the hereafter and that marriage is a superset of connections related to eternal bonds of friendship and association (not surprisingly, a constant theme in Joseph Smith’s personal writings), but then it does not yet appear what we shall truly be.
That vision of marriage — marriage as connection and relationship, not ownership or property — would account for polygamy being a principle that is appropriate from time to time, at the express command of God in this life, yet is also an eternal principle, while polygamy is a something that in our current state does not belong in our mortal lives, though is perfectly acceptable for those who have died (e.g. why there are women with two or more husbands sealed to them, for example).
That is what polygamy really implies.