Okay, I've found some information on what was going wrong. Being completely new at using an Edison I started on the "Getting Started" pages. Unfortunately it seems that the links in those pages that are labeled as referring to the latest firmware updates do not actually refer to the latest firmware updates. After a lot of digging around I was able to find a later firmware update at https://downloadcenter.intel.com/download/24389. While this is *not* the latest firmware it does provide a pathway to the latest firmware version. Go ahead and install it.
After installing it the configure_edison command will show some arguments that are not available in the firmware version that "getting started" refers to. Assuming you've gone ahead and have setup WiFi on your edison typing "configure_edison --upgrade" will cause it to download the latest update (around 125 Mb at the time I tried it). The device takes a few minutes to upgrade, reboots, and then it's done.