Exodus 32

Exodus 32:8 they have made them a golden calf
"As has been observed before, it was one thing to get Israel out of Egypt, and another thing entirely to get Egypt out of Israel! Indeed, the compelling drama of the deliverance, exodus, and wanderings of Israel proved to be a tragedy, a story of lost opportunities-a saga of things as they might have been. It would be over a millennium before the fulness of gospel blessings and the fulness of priesthood ordinances would be available to the generality of the people. In the meantime, the Lord had commandments and spiritual structure for a people he still loved: the word from Sinai was about to be given." (Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 3: Genesis to 2 Samuel [Salt Lake City: Randall Book, 1985], 109)
"Another golden calf in modern guise is crafted when Church members counsel contrary to that of the Church leadership. Of Almon Babbitt, the Lord said, 'There are many things with which I am not pleased; behold, he aspireth to establish his counsel instead of the counsel which I have ordained, even that of the Presidency of my Church; and he setteth up a golden calf for the worship of my people.' (D&C 124:84.)
"Following counsel that deviates from the counsel of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is like worshipping a golden calf. Just as there is no life in a graven image, there is no saving power outside the truth God imparts through his appointed channels. The Apostle John gave us a way to discern such idols: 'We [the Apostles] are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.' (1 Jn. 4:6.)
"...Anything can become a 'golden calf.' When activities or material blessings become so important that by turning to them we turn from God, we are breaking the second commandment. We are walking 'in [our] own way, and after the image of [our] own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish.' (D&C 1:16; emphasis added.) The solution is to prioritize our loyalties and turn our affections back to God." (Dennis Largey, "Refusing to Worship Today's Graven Images," Ensign, Feb. 1994, 10-13)
Exodus 32:22-24 Aaron said... I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf
Can you imagine the expression on Moses face when he hears this explanation from his older brother and spokesman to the people? Aaron is trying to get away with an excuse, "the people made me do it." "It wasn't my idea; you know how wicked and mischievous these people are!" "Of course, I would never want to make a golden calf for them!"
In fact, Aaron was complicit with the crime. It was even his idea (see verse 2). He took their gold. He melted it down. He formed it into one block. Then he "fashioned it with a graving tool" (Ex. 32:4). When he should have stopped the people and called them to repentance, he instead helped them make another god.
Then after all that-when he is caught red handed-when Moses is asking him what he has done-he says "I just took their gold and threw it into the fire and 'poof!' a golden calf came out." "It was like magic!" Can you imagine how this explanation sat with Moses? He knew who was to blame. That is why he asked the question, what could possibly have happened "that thou hast brought so great a sin upon [this people]"?
JST Exodus 34:1-2 I will take away the priesthood out of their midst
"This, in fact, was the goal Moses sought when he brought the children of Israel to Mount Sinai. Jehovah had wanted to sanctify Israel and make them 'a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation' through covenant with him. (See Ex. 19:5-6.) Their sanctification would have been accomplished as God has ordained-through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. By exercising faith in Christ unto repentance and covenanting to keep his commandments by being baptized, each of the children of Israel could have been sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost. (See 2 Ne. 31:17-20; 3 Ne. 27:18-21.)
"Thus sanctified by the Spirit and endowed with the gift of the Holy Ghost, Israel would have entered a heightened spiritual state in which, through the ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood now administered in God's holy temples, they could have access to the 'mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.'
"With that key, they would, in effect, have the key to eternal life. Eventually, they might have so risen in spiritual stature, going 'from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation,' that they could enter into God's rest fully and forever to "dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power." (See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 298-99, 346-47; see also D&C 93:11-20) They would truly have come to know God, which the Savior said is eternal life. (See John 17:1-3.)
"But they weren't ready. Although ancient Israel saw the cloud in which Jehovah descended upon Mount Sinai and heard his voice, they were not permitted to see him. If they had tried, they would have perished. (See Ex. 19:9, 16-21.) The Lord explained that they were 'exceedingly sinful. And no sinful man hath at any time, neither shall there be any sinful man at any time, that shall see my face and live.' (JST Ex. 33:20.) Israel 'hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence.' They turned instead to the worship of a golden calf. Angered by their actions, the Lord 'swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.' (D&C 84:24.)
"Since they could not abide the Lord's presence, the priesthood and the ordinances that would have set them onto the path of eternal life were withheld. God 'took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also; and the lesser priesthood continued.' (See D&C 84:25-26; JST Ex. 34:1-2.)" (Melvin J. Petersen, "I Have a Question," Ensign, Dec. 1985, 61)
Ezra Taft Benson
This higher priesthood, with its attendant ordinances, was taken from Israel till the time of Jesus Christ...
Between Moses and Christ only certain prophets possessed the right to the higher priesthood and the blessings that could bring men into the presence of God. One of these prophets was Elijah. (Ensign, Aug. 1985, 9)
Jeffrey R. Holland
Clearly some of what was originally contained on the first set of tablets was written again on the second (the Ten Commandments, for example.) But it is much more important to note that vital doctrines upon the first set-specifically, the ordinances of the higher priesthood-were omitted from the second...
Even with the loss of such vital information, it is important to see the remaining covenant, what survived the wrath of Sinai as the law of Moses (variously described as Mosaic, Aaronic, lesser, preparatory, carnal, or outward) in the true light it deserves and the strict obedience with which the Nephites observed it.
This "law of Moses" under which the Israelites continued from Moses' day onward included faith, repentance, and baptism, along with a host of other "performances and ordinances" such as sacrifices and offerings that were directly linked with the future atonement of Christ and were meant to be in every way "a similitude of him."
To get his sometimes disobedient children to understand the Atonement and the fundamental importance of first principles, Jehovah added to the standard gospel message (taught from the days of Adam down to Moses) what is now spoken of as "carnal commandments." These were added as reminders, exercises, preparations stressing a return to first principles of the gospel. This basic code that remained with the children of Israel, this preparatory gospel built upon a law of carnal commandments, is what is now called the law of Moses. Principles of the truth that had been with the Israelites before the addition of the carnal commandments and that continued after these were added included the principles of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism for the remission of sins, the Ten Commandments, various offerings symbolic of Christ's atonement, and the law of the covenant. Elements added or amplified included other "performances and ordinances" such as dietary restrictions, purification rituals, and additional offerings. Other additions included the preparation of clothing, the planting of crops, and additional social obligations. These were all intended to reinforce self-control and create greater self-discipline (obedience) in the lives of the children of Israel so they could reclaim the higher promises, principles, and priesthood that had been enjoyed by their forebears.
Thus it is crucial to understand that the law of Moses was overlaid upon, and thereby included, many basic parts of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which had existed before it. It was never intended to be something apart or separated from, and certainly not something antagonistic to, the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was more elementary than the full gospel-thus its schoolmaster's role in bringing people to the gospel-but its purpose was never to have been different from the higher law. Both were to bring people to Christ. (Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 145-147)