Because the people of Nephi kept the commandments, they were blessed. The people of Laman however, were cursed for their wickedness. They were marked with a physical distinction that set them apart from the people of Nephi, and made them loathsome to the Nephites.1 We can see the contrast between the two groups:
2 Ne. 5:10 And we [the Nephites] did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the law of Moses.Nephi specifically mentions the industry of his people and the idleness of the Lamanites. Though we don't always talk about it as such, work is actually a principle of the gospel.[2-3] This becomes especially apparent when we look at the abundance of examples in which the Lord has condemned idleness.[4-8]
2 Ne. 5:17 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did cause my people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands.
2 Ne. 5:24 And because of their cursing which was upon them, [the Lamanites] did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey.
A word of caution should be inserted here, however. Nephi does not say that the Lamanites were more laid back and that the Nephites were consumed in the busyness of their lives. Elder Uchtdorf points out the oft-overlooked difference between being industrious and just being "busy:"9
Isn’t it true that we often get so busy? And, sad to say, we even wear our busyness as a badge of honor, as though being busy, by itself, was an accomplishment or sign of a superior life.The Nephites were able to find a balance in their lives in which they worked diligently to provide for themselves and their families, but did not forget the Lord, from whom all blessings flow.
I think of our Lord and Exemplar, Jesus Christ, and His short life among the people of Galilee and Jerusalem. I have tried to imagine Him bustling between meetings or multitasking to get a list of urgent things accomplished.
I can’t see it.
Instead I see the compassionate and caring Son of God purposefully living each day. When He interacted with those around Him, they felt important and loved. He knew the infinite value of the people He met. He blessed them, ministered to them. He lifted them up, healed them. He gave them the precious gift of His time.
2 Ne. 5:27 And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness.
1. 2 Nephi 5:20-23
2. Genesis 3:19
3. Exodus 20:9
4. D&C 68:31
5. 1 Timothy 5:8
6. 2 Thessalonians
7. D&C 75:29
8. D&C 88:124
9. Dieter F. Uchtdorf "Of Regrets and Resolutions" (Oct 2012)