The following is a portion of my research from last summer’s Bushman seminar, in which I examined how Mormons between 1890 and 1940 vacillated between embracing and marginalizing their polygamous past.
With Protestants continuing to be suspicious of a possible attempt by the Latter-day Saints to bring back the practice of plural marriage, Mormons at times narrated their polygamous past leading up to the Manifesto to emphasize their loyalty to the nation. In this context, the potential to marginalize the importance of polygamy was evident. For example, in 1916 Talmage told a news reporter that “when the federal statutes prohibiting its practice were declared constitutional, plural marriage was forbidden by action of the Church, officially assembled in general conference.” By arguing that Mormons immediately discontinued the practice of plural marriage when the anti-polygamy statutes were declared constitutional, Talmage implied that plural marriage was a peripheral practice easily discarded when it conflicted with the laws of the land.
However, it was a full eleven years following the Reynolds case that ruled that anti-polygamy laws were constitutional that Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto. Marginalizing plural marriage does little to explain why Mormons in the 1880s preferred to be imprisoned rather than submit to man’s law, or why so much energy was spent to challenge additional anti-polygamy laws during the 1880s. In fairness to Talmage, in a more candid passage in The Articles of Faith, he did acknowledge that “those who followed [plural marriage] felt that they were divinely commanded so to do.” In addition, he narrated the “many appeals” that were taken to the Supreme Court. In some contexts then, Talmage did show a willingness to place polygamy at the center of the Mormon past, at least for some Latter-day Saints.
In 1933 the First Presidency released an Official Statement designed primarily to answer Mormon fundamentalist challenges to the Manifesto. In the statement, the abandonment of plural marriage by the Church was interpreted through the lens provided by Doctrine and Covenants 124:49-53. The revelation stated that those Saints that “go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence,” would be released from obeying a commandment if obstructed by persecution. By the statement’s logic, just as the Saints were released from building the Jackson County temple due to opposition during the 1830s, so would they be released from practicing plural marriage due to persecution. In claiming that the Saints had gone with all their might to fulfill the commandment of plural marriage, the 1933 statement necessarily centered plural marriage in the Mormon past. The decision to either embrace or marginalize the importance of plural marriage in the Mormon past was therefore one that depended largely on the context that led to the construction of memory rather than any ideological determination to completely erase polygamy from the Mormon past.
 “‘Mormonism’s’ Message to the World,” Improvement Era 19, no. 9 (July 1916): 831.
 James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith: A Series of Lectures on the Principle Doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints(Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1899), 435-36, 440.
 Heber J. Grant, A. W. Ivins, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., “Official Statement,” Church Section, Deseret News, June 17, 1933, 4. George Q. Cannon in 1890 was apparently the first to use D&C 124:49-53 to explain the Manifesto (George Q. Cannon, “History Behind Issuance of the Manifesto,” October 6, 1890, Collected Discourses, Brian Stuy, ed., 6 vols. [Sandy, Utah: B.H.S. Publishing, 1988), 2:129). John A. Widtsoe also used it in 1940 (John A. Widtsoe, “Evidences and Reconciliations, xxxi: Was the ‘Manifesto’ Based on Revelation?” Improvement Era 43, no. 11 [November 1940]: 673).