Sincere question, concern, without the patience of working on the right "tone":
What is the right way to respectfully approach our leaders if we have a disagreement or misunderstanding or questions/concerns that seem not to have any good answers? What if we have the audacity to suggest they might have done something "wrong"?
Sure, tone matters, but what we normally get is just a lot of “never criticize!” talk, and this in spite of the fact that "we have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion." D&C 121:39.
One woman can be excommunicated because one bishopric says she should be. Period. There is no due process. There is no impartial committee with women included that can make the final disciplinary decision after a bishop makes a recommendation. There is no requirement of unanimity of the bishopric either. Even on the stake level (where any disciplinary case involving a man holding the high priesthood are held) an excommunication cannot be vetoed by any number of the high council--the stake president can unilaterally make the decision himself.
(Speaking of the High Council, is there any reason why women cannot serve on that council? If priesthood is required, why can't women serve under the direction of the keys of the stake president-just as the men on the High Council do-and similar to how women perform temple ordinances under the direction of the temple president's keys?)
The sad truth is that a bishop can change from taking a pastoral approach to a disciplinary approach in the blink of an eye. And his decision will be upheld worldwide in the church. One church member serving in that one calling represents the entire Church since his decision of excommunication is like a currency that is accepted worldwide.
Technically there is an appeals process but I don't know of any case where an excommunication has been overturned by the First Presidency. It seems as though it is simply assumed that the local leaders who are closest to the situation know best. That is a scary prospect if excommunication is used in cases where true repentance is not even an issue.
Let me be clear: excommunication is and can be a proper part of the repentance process in serious cases (for example, murder or incest come to mind), and I know several people who have commented to me that their excommunication was necessary and they are now members in good standing. So I'm not arguing against excommunication, but when you lump in "conduct unbecoming of a church member" this can include a wide range of interpretation such as a difference of opinion or disagreeing with a church leader in public. Nobody in their right mind should agree that those examples deserve the same consequences.
Ideally Seers would see that excommunication is not the answer in cases where deep and serious sin has not occurred. There are many other lesser consequences that could be more appropriate. In Kate Kelly's case, whatever "crime" was committed (and I know that is debatable, since "conduct unbecoming of church members" is subjective in the extreme and there is no impartial jury, and some people are not as lucky as others in the unfortunate reality of ecclesiastical roulette) in my view the crime does not even come close to matching the punishment.
No one single person can ever know all the details, but from all the details that have been made known/public, I think that excommunication was wrong for Kate Kelly. Even if she deliberately tried (and I don't believe she did) to embarrass the church or church leaders or (heaven forbid) disobey them (since apparently some members see that as the most important "commandment", not to say anything of obeying one's own conscience and/or obeying principles over persons) it still would not be the right solution. It does more harm to the Church, whether we define the Church as an institution or as the people who make up the body of Christ.
In my mind, if I had more faith or trust or hope in church leaders always doing the right thing (ie: if I ignored D&C 121:39), the excommunication should have never taken place, even if she still lived in the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical leaders that made the decision (which she didn't) or at least it would have been overturned by leaders higher up in the hierarchy.
Alas, it seems that local actions are most always sustained in order to show the unanimity of the
Good ol' Boys Club priesthood leadership.